Radium Girls

Undark” Investigation Report

Subject: Radium Girls Case

11th of March, 1925

Conducted By: Harrison Martland (Note: based on the actual conducted report)


The United States Radium factory at Orange, New Jersey, founded in 1917, and the Radium Dial Company facility in Ottawa, founded in 1922, became known for radium-based painting procedures on dial watches.

The goal of this investigation is to uncover the truth surrounding the Radium Girls incident at the United States Radium Corporation.



1924, Radium poisoning research.

The United States Radium Corporation gained notoriety for its production of luminous radium dial paint, used to create glowing watch dials. However, the minuscule traces of radioactivity had caused the deaths of some dial painters.


First case

Amelia “Mollie” Maggia

Symptoms: toothache, painful ulcers, necrosis of the jaw

Date of death: 12th of September, 1922

Cause of death: severe hemorrhage

At the end of the research, I figured out that radium is indeed poisonous, causing anaemia, bone disease, necrosis of the jaw, and ultimately death.


Cecil Drinker’s investigation

President Arthur Roeder contacted industrial hygiene expert Cecil Drinker to investigate the situation.

The factory was contaminated with radium dust. Dial painters were supposed to lick their paint brushes to keep the points sharp, each time ingesting small amounts of the radium-based paint. Supervisors assured the all-female workforce — some as young as 15 — that the paint was safe.

Cecil found out about the few workers who started showing up less at the factory due to an illness they’ve contracted, so he issued a report to the company recommending safety precautions. Roeder, however, insisted that a contagious infection contracted outside the factory must be to blame and referred to an internal report that disproved Drinker’s findings — a report he refused to show Drinker. When he found out about Cecil’s plans to publish the HSPH (Harvard School of Public Health) report, Roeder threatened to sue him.


Current Situation

Radium exposure

The investigation started in late 1924. The owners of the company and the scientists who worked there avoided exposure to the radium themselves. Chemists at the factory used lead screens, masks and tongs when handling the substance.

Early 1925: Several deaths reported, including the company’s chief chemist, Dr. Edwin E. Leman.

I engaged in discussions with the founder of the company and the inventor of radium paint to discern their perspective, Arthur Roeder and Sabin von Sochocky.

Mr. Roeder, considering that the chemists wear special equipment to protect themselves from radium poisoning, how come the female workers simply point the brushes with their lips?

ROEDER: Von Sochocky never told me Radium could be harmful. And I don’t recall any instance of an operator putting a brush in her mouth.

Are you certain that the people who work for you are not dying because of the radium?

ROEDER: They also worked in other places. I have a report from Columbia University—an expert in industrial hygiene, just like Drinker—who says there is no connection between our plant and these illnesses.

When communicating with the inventor, not only did the answers not correspond with Roeder’s statement, but also most questions were avoided.

Mr. von Sochocky, has it ever occurred to you that the radium is extremely toxic, even if there is a small quantity of it in your paint?

VON SOCHOCKY: As long as it’s not ingested, it’s not hazardous, the quantity of radium is minuscule.

Are you aware of how they dip the brushes and then lick them, without using any protective gear?

VON SOCHOCKY: One could handle radium only by taking the greatest precautions. On a rare occasion, as I watched the girls “lipping” and dipping their brushes, I told them, Do not do that! I repeated to another girl, Do not do that. You will get sick.

But still, a local newspaper article in 1920 stated that the company had offloaded some of its industrial waste by selling it to schools and playgrounds to use in their sandboxes. One child complained to his mother of a burning sensation in his hands.

VON SOCHOCKY: That was the most hygienic sand for children to play in.

You don’t believe that the cause of death of Dr. George Willis in September 1922 was radium poisoning? Didn’t he have radium in his hands from working with the paint?

VON SOCHOCKY: As I said, neglect of precautions may result in serious injury to the radium workers themselves.


Arthur Roeder
Arnold Von Sochocky



The evidence presented, including the devastating health effects suffered by the affected workers, the several death reports and the earlier conducted investigations underscores the urgent need for improved workplace safety regulations at U.S. Radium. It is imperative that authorities take swift and decisive action to ensure the well-being of employees and prevent future tragedies.

End of Report.