Australian news, and some related international items

Marie Curie and John Wayne – victims of nuclear radiation

John Wayne squares off against Jim Hansen, Medium,  Albert Bates, 11 Jan 2020     “…….. In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium emitted rays that resembled X-rays. Marie Curie suspected that the radiation was not the outcome of some interaction but came from the atom itself. Her work with uranium disproved the conventional wisdom going back to ancient Greece that atoms were indivisible and set up the later discovery of subatomic particles. Curie discovered that thorium, radium, polonium and radioactive bismuth occurred naturally with uranium. Radium was known to glow in the dark, which made it useful for painting the hour and minute hands on watches and clocks. It was later discovered that radium “radiated” more than just neutrons, but also protons and electrons, becoming another unstable element, radon, and that element radiated its subatomic particles to become others, polonium and bismuth, until those eventually became a  stable element, lead. Indeed, the radium Curie discovered was the progeny of another unstable element, thorium, which was the progeny of yet another unstable element, uranium.

Madame Curie was a physicist, not a medical doctor, so she did not recognize the health effects of handling uranium, thorium, radium and the other radionuclides. Indeed, she suspected the effects would be beneficial. One of the papers she and her husband published in the late 19th century announced that, when exposed to radium, diseased, tumor-forming cells were destroyed faster than healthy cells (the basis for today’s radio-chemotherapy). She carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pockets and stored them in her desk drawer. Although her many decades of exposure to radiation caused chronic illnesses (including near-blindness due to cataracts) and ultimately her death, she never acknowledged the inherent health risks. She likely did not recognize the symptoms when she began to feel weak and lose her hair. She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia without ever knowing that she fought the same mortal enemy as those who had painted the hands on watches and clocks, or those who had mined and processed the uranium on which she worked. After her death, and to this day, her papers and effects are too radioactive to be handled and her laboratory is unsafe to enter.

The famous cowboy actor John Wayne may have been felled by the same foe. From 1951 to 1962 the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) detonated more than 100 bombs in the southwestern US desert, sending huge pinkish plumes of radioactive dust across the stony valleys and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona. It gave each “shot” names like Annie, Eddie, Humboldt and Badger. Eleven of those tests were part of a series called Upshot-Knothole in Utah in 1953. In 1954, the Upshot-Knothole site was chosen as the location for a John Wayne film called The Conqueror.

The AEC sent a scientist with a Geiger counter to show Wayne that the location was safe enough for him to bring his wife and children to visit the set. The Geiger counter is said to have crackled so loudly Wayne thought it was broken. Waving it over clumps of cactus, rock and sand produced the same loud result. The Duke, by all accounts, shrugged it off. By 1980, 91 out of 220 cast and crew on The Conquerer had contracted cancer and 46 of them, including Wayne and co- stars Dick Powell, Pedro Armendáriz, Agnes Moorehead, and Susan Hayward had died. Those numbers did not include the families of the cast and crew. John Wayne’s wife and two sons all got cancer. While the two sons survived, the daughter of one of Wayne’s sons also died of cancer. Hayward’s son Tim Barker had a benign tumor removed from his mouth. Many of the Native American Paiute extras went on to die of cancer also……..

January 20, 2020 - Posted by | General News

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: