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Old 05-16-2018, 01:52 PM   #16
Luffy
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I didn't like the book. Very boring.
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Old 05-16-2018, 03:26 PM   #17
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I'm not sure what to say on this one.

It certainly played with my emotions more than most. I don't really contribute that to the fictionalized excerpts more just to the fact that this was non-fiction and what happened to those ladies is (and was) completely unacceptable. I know it was a very slanted take on it though and while I would have preferred a more even approach to it (more science please) I don't think that would have changed my feelings towards the companies. Maybe some of the individual players.

The epilogue/postscripts were definitely the most shocking part of this. I knew going in that awful things would happen to the "girls" but I didn't expect that some of the companies would continue operating into the 80s and that some of the sites still aren't cleaned up entirely.

On the whole, it brings up things like asbestos and leaded gasoline and tobacco and other slow killers and the question of what else is out there? Are GMOs really that healthy for us? What about cell phones and all the RF radiation that we are exposed to? Everyone says GMOs are healthy and that wi-fi won't hurt you but then again, radium was used as a health tonic long before the downsides were acknowledged. Do we really know that messing with tomato plants to make them resistant to X or Y doesn't have unintended consequences and we just can't see them yet? Why are allergies becoming more common and more extreme? Is it caused by one of the things we keep hearing "aren't dangerous" but has long-term effects we may never be able to identify?

I don't know. But I'm a little more worried about it than I was. I absolutely do not think that corporations and people in generally have changed so that they are altruistic. They will continue to ignore and whitewash health issues as long as they can get away with it and are making money. Why do we need a cancer epidemic or people literally disintegrating before we make things safer?
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Old 05-16-2018, 04:30 PM   #18
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I'm only through Part 1 so far. It's making me extremely angry.
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Old 05-16-2018, 09:29 PM   #19
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Before reading this book, the only background I had on this was from watching the screwball comedy Nothing Sacred (I’m a Carole Lombard fan). The movie, made in 1937, presents radiation sickness is a fraud being promoted by fake news organizations to boost readership (sound familiar?).
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:00 PM   #20
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How easy it is to make a joke about something you don't understand. That's extraordinary, bfisher.

Dazrin, I absolutely agree with you. Asbestos is one example of which I know a little, as it was mined here in Australia and turned into building products by a company called James Hardie.

When current and former employees started to be struck down by asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma, they apparently paid some compensation, but removed assets from the James Hardie company and set up business under another name in the Netherlands, so that as more cases came to light (it can take about 30 years to show the symptoms), there was the company safely located overseas, with insufficient funds left in Australia to cover the mounting claims.

There were long battles through the courts, led by a dying man who had to have an oxygen tank with him at all times. The company was just as callous as the ones in the book, but with modern media, came under much more scrutiny nationwide.

So many large companies mouth platitudes about how "our employees are our greatest asset", but when the chips are down, those assets don't seem to be worth much at all.

You are right to feel angry, Catlady.
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Old 05-17-2018, 12:57 AM   #21
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Oh, yes, this is a very anger inducing book! (And, on a side note, asbestos was mined in Canada until a couple of years ago. But only for export to third world countries!)

The description of the radiation scattered all over Ottawa was particularly telling for me. But also that some (few) of the women actually survived to very old ages, though none without significant health consequences.
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:44 AM   #22
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Still mining the stuff?! The criminals are alive and well it seems.
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:44 AM   #23
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Still mining the stuff?! The criminals are alive and well it seems.
Oh, yes. And the governments that have allowed it. Stuffs illegal in Canada, of course, but they legally mined it to ship overseas. Grrr.


So, I'm seeing some good comments on Radium Girls, but also some brief or missing comments. Is this because the book was difficult to read? Or are people having issues outside of the book? I know I struggled with it quite a lot, even though I thought it an important read. And what about Dazrin's questions he posted in the voting thread? Any comments? Should we repost them here?
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:10 AM   #24
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My short take on Radium Girls is that it's a gripping story that I wish were better written; a view that seems to be commonly held. That said, I will give Moore credit for telling a story with huge sweep on the one hand and with an eye for the telling detail, on the other. She also researched this intensely; while some of her flights of fancy were highly regrettable, she did convey the lives as such that were destroyed.

I deplored the projected scenarios which purported to know even people's thoughts, but I thought her stage-setting was very effective early on, with descriptions of the visible effects of clouds of radium dust and how it made the girls feel special and singled out, as indeed they would be later on as their bones glowed through their skin.

I can differentiate between the ignorance of "corporations" early days and the actions of individuals as the horrible truth was manifest. Yeah, radium's good for you, why not? They didn't know and there was a tendency in that age to think all scientific advancement was unalloyed good. But later on, as the major players circled the wagons to protect themselves and maintain their own lives at the direct cost to the lives of young women; it reaches a stage where legality is moot. They knew they were killing those women and they continued to do so. It was evil.

The girls were almost the perfect microcosm of fodder for the well-being of the plutocrat class. They were young, female, uneducated, poor, lower/working class and either of immigrant stock (in New Jersey) or Catholic (in Illinois). They didn't matter. Except that the classifications have altered a bit, the world hasn't changed.

I want to respond to several individual posts, but I'll take them in chunks.
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:29 AM   #25
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<SNIP>

The girls were almost the perfect microcosm of fodder for the well-being of the plutocrat class. They were young, female, uneducated, poor, lower/working class and either of immigrant stock (in New Jersey) or Catholic (in Illinois). They didn't matter. Except that the classifications have altered a bit, the world hasn't changed.
I am surprised no one else has brought up the gender issue. In the very early pages of the book, the separation was already clear - all the scientists working with radium took the greatest care not to touch the material. There were lead aprons, etc. But the women were given no protection or warning at all. I think this says so much more about just who was expendable in the workforce than anything.
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:46 AM   #26
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So, I'm seeing some good comments on Radium Girls, but also some brief or missing comments. Is this because the book was difficult to read? Or are people having issues outside of the book? I know I struggled with it quite a lot, even though I thought it an important read. And what about Dazrin's questions he posted in the voting thread? Any comments? Should we repost them here?
I'm well behind schedule because of some unexpected personal issues that kept me from starting the book in a timely fashion. Plus for some reason I had it in my head that the book was about half as long as it actually is. But I hope to be done by tomorrow.
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Old 05-17-2018, 12:07 PM   #27
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@Catlady: It's shorter than you think -- there are extensive notes at the end. Interesting for researchers, but not for most of us. So the end is actually at about 65% on my Kindle.

For me, it was a struggle, but I'm glad I pushed through.

@astrangerhere and issybird: I'm glad you mentioned the differential between women and men and how protected they were. Frankly, I just took it as a given, but it's important to call it out, and I should be less careless about that.
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Old 05-17-2018, 12:53 PM   #28
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Yes, the author mentioned (very briefly) that radium didn't seem to any kind of problem until it killed a rich man. Then it became a national crisis.

The talk about asbestos also reminded me of the modern coal industry, which has been systematically killing poor (mostly West Virginians) for decades, and is an ongoing problem here in the US.

...and then this showed in another forum I frequent (may seem callous/offensive to some, please don't hurt me):

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Old 05-17-2018, 01:15 PM   #29
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The talk about asbestos also reminded me of the modern coal industry, which has been systematically killing poor (mostly West Virginians) for decades, and is an ongoing problem here in the US.
Yes, I was thinking about coal when I said "other slow killers" and should have highlighted it specifically in retrospect. Being in the pacific northwest, I don't have to think about coal too often. We have other concerns... like Hanford.
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Old 05-17-2018, 07:50 PM   #30
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Picking up on issybird's comment about the lack of knowledge of the dangers, at least in the early years, I went back to look up Marie Curie and found this on Wikipedia:

Quote:
Curie visited Poland for the last time in early 1934. A few months later, on 4 July 1934, she died at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy, Haute-Savoie, from aplastic anemia believed to have been contracted from her long-term exposure to radiation.

The damaging effects of ionising radiation were not known at the time of her work, which had been carried out without the safety measures later developed. She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket, and she stored them in her desk drawer, remarking on the faint light that the substances gave off in the dark. Curie was also exposed to X-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals during the war. Although her many decades of exposure to radiation caused chronic illnesses (including near-blindness due to cataracts) and ultimately her death, she never really acknowledged the health risks of radiation exposure.
(Snip)

Because of their levels of radioactive contamination, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.
I found the comment about her never really acknowledging the health risks of radiation exposure particularly interesting.
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