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Mad Hatters, The Radium Girls, and The Asbestos Hotel
October 21, 2018 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pmFree
Industrial toxins are an inescapable part of the history of the industrial state of New Jersey, and played a role in our very local history. In recent decades, New Jersey has been home to over 140 EPA-administered Superfund cleanup sites. Protection for workers and compensation for those suffering and sometimes dying from industrial exposures have been relatively recent developments.
Historically, three New Jersey industrial toxins – mercury, radium, and asbestos – have their own harrowing stories to tell. The hatting industry, which thrived in dozens of small shops in Essex County including in Orange, South Orange, and Millburn in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, exposed workers to toxic mercury fumes, causing mental and physical disabilities. In the interwar years, dozens of radium dial painters at a factory in Orange – all young women – suffered and died from radiation-induced bone cancer and bone degeneration. At mid-century, workers at Manville, the “asbestos city,” fell ill with damaged lungs and a rare tumor called mesothelioma, as did workers who installed the insulation products produced at the Manville plant.
On Sunday, October 21, at 2pm at Durand-Hedden House in Maplewood (house and store open from 1 to 4pm), speaker Dr. Sandra Moss will tell this gripping story in an illustrated talk. Audience input and observations are welcome. Dr. Moss is a retired internist who lectures and writes about the history of medicine in New Jersey. She is past president of the Medical History Society of New Jersey and of the American Osler Society (a national organization for historians of medicine.) An author of numerous articles, chapters, and reviews, she has also written three books about New Jersey’s medical history.