Radium: The Dangerously Radioactive Element: Background information when reading The Radium Girls

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The Radium Girls

The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore X
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book:
Radium: The Dangerously Radioactive Element

The high demand for radium is at the heart of Kate Moore's book, The Radium Girls.

Radium is a naturally occurring element, most of which is found in uranium ore; it makes up approximately 1 part per trillion of the Earth's crust, making it our planet's 84th most common component. One ton of uranium ore can contain as little as 0.14 grams of radium. We're constantly exposed to this highly toxic metal, but in very minute amounts.

Pierre and Marie Curie The element was discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie in December 1898. While working to separate uranium from a mineral called pitchblende, Marie discovered that the material remaining after the uranium was removed was actually more radioactive than the chemical they originally sought. After refining tons of pitchblende (now known as uranite), Curie narrowed down the source of the radiation to two previously unknown elements: polonium and radium. Curie further discovered that radium – a soft, shiny, silvery metal - was about 3 million times ...

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