The Human and Environmental Impact of the Radium Dial-Painting Industry
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The discovery and use of radium paint as a means to illuminate household products introduced this carcinogen into American industry in the early 20th century. This paper examines the human and environmental impact of the radium dial-painting industry on Ottawa, Illinois from its introduction in 1920 to 2007. My research shows that the negative effects of radium exposure were not limited to the people who directly handled radium paint. Lack of proper accountability and insufficient cleanup procedures led to the widespread radioactive contamination of Ottawa. Though the USEP A conducted decontamination efforts in the 1990s, radiation was not fully removed from some key areas. Hazardous amounts of radiation remain in populated areas of Ottawa, showing the dangerous legacy of the radium dial-painting industry has had a significant impact on the city.