Jan 132018

Stumbled across this ad, found it oddly charming. We take artificial light so for granted now that it’s a little difficult to imagine a time when glow-in-the-dark paint was virtually magical. The fact that it was radioactive and toxic… shrug.

 Posted by at 12:08 pm
  • Graham

    Roughly around the same time they were using radium for illuminated gun-sights as well.

  • Bob

    They needed people with a fine touch to paint all those little delicate dial faces and gauge hands. Almost all of those people were young girls. These girls had a habit of sharpening up their brushes between strokes by licking those brush heads laden with that radium paint. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what happened to them. Do we ever learn anything except the hard way?

  • Bruce

    In response to Bob,yes that was the Elgin watch company, which no longer exists

  • Nick P.

    Outside of radium watch painter girls licking paintbrushes and things like patent medicine radium water, was using radium for things like glowing paint really all that particularly dangerous?

    • CaptainNed

      Here’s the decay chain of uranium (which includes radium), complete with energy released at each decay. Radium and its decay daughters are the most energetic events in the chain. It’s mostly alpha particles, which are essentially harmless unless ingested, but there is some gamma output as well.


      • Peter Hanely

        From Radium on down it looks like all Alpha and Beta radiation, both of which are easily shielded against. But at high energy there can be X-ray secondaries, depending on the surrounding material. Also, Radon is a noble gas, so for complete shielding the material needs to be in a gas tight container.

    • Scottlowther

      Once applied, I imagine probably not. Its danger would probably be akin to lead paint… don’t eat it or inhale its dust, and you’ll be fine.

      But we now live in a world where that sort of risk – especially with spooooooky radiation – can’t be allowed.

      • JEC

        Of course, if you really WANTED to do something dangerous with the stuff you could emulate this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hahn
        One interesting item from the book “The Radioactive Boy Scout”: the Radium Chemical Co. promoted the idea that people could “stick it to the Man (electric utilities and electric light bulb manufacturers)” by painting the interior walls and ceilings of their homes with radium paint so that no other form of illumination would be needed. “Radiation? You’re soaking in it!”

  • publiusr

    I’d still like some for my lead FASA minis. Cancels out that way 😉