”The great radium scandal”. Scientific American 269 (1993) 94–99.
...William John Aloysius Bailey was a Harvard University dropout who falsely claimed to be a doctor of medicine, and who promoted the use of radioactive radium as a cure for coughs, flu, and other common ailments. Although Bailey's Radium Laboratories in New Jersey was continually investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, he died wealthy from his many devices and products, including an aphrodisiac called Arium, marketed as a restorative that "renewed happiness and youthful thrill into the lives of married peoples whose attractions to each other had weakened." He offered physicians a 17% rebate on the prescription of each dose of Radithor. Bailey created Radithor by dissolving radium salts in water to deliver 1 microcurie of radiation from each bottle, claiming its curative properties were due to stimulation of the endocrine system. Radithor was advertised as "A Cure for the Living Dead" as well as "Perpetual Sunshine."
...Professor Bertram Boltwood of Yale explained the scientific basis for the cures in the following way: The radioactivity was “carrying electrical energy into the depths of the body and there subjecting the juices, protoplasm, and nuclei of the cells to an immediate bombardment by explosions of electrical atoms,” and that it stimulated “cell activity, arousing all secretory and excretory organs . . . causing the system to throw off waste products,” and that it was “an agent for the destruction of bacteria.” Radon was believed to be so important to water that it was considered its life element. Without it, water was dead. Radon was to water what oxygen was to air.
Radium decayed very quickly from the spring water. The water had to be consumed at the spring to receive the healing properties. This lead to the creation of devices for use in the home to add radioactivity to tap water, such as the first and most popular Revigator in 1912. The Revigator was a jar made of radium-containing ore which held several gallons of water and came with these instructions: “Fill jar every night. Drink freely . . . when thirsty and upon arising and retiring, average six or more glasses daily.” Many more radium-emanating products hit the market, many of which were cheaper, smaller and mobile so you could take your personal, perpetual health spring with you on the road or at home.
To prevent scams, the American Medical Association established guidelines (in effect from 1916 to 1929) that emanators seeking AMA approval had to generate more than 2 µCi of radon per liter of water in a 24-hour period. In the 1920s and early 1930s it was possible to purchase radium-containing salves, beauty creams, toothpaste (radon was thought to fight dental decay and improve digestion), ear plugs, chocolate bars, butter, soap, suppositories, and even contraceptives.
...Born April 12, 1880, Eben Byers was an athlete and ladies’ man. He was the U.S. Amateur Golf Champion of 1906, after finishing runner-up in 1902 and 1903. Byers eventually became the chairman of the Girard Iron Company, which had been created by his father, Alexander Byers. In 1927, while returning via chartered train from the annual Harvard-Yale football game, Byers fell from his berth and injured his arm. He complained of persistent pain and a doctor suggested that he take Radithor.
Byers began taking enormous doses of Radithor, which he believed had greatly improved his health, drinking 3 bottles a day – nearly 1400 bottles total. In the process, he subjected himself to more than three times the acute lethal radiation dose. By 1930, when Byers stopped taking the remedy, he had accumulated significant amounts of radium in his bones resulting in the loss of most of his jaw. Byers’ brain was also abscessed and holes were forming in his skull. He died from radium poisoning on March 31, 1932. He is buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a lead-lined coffin.
Due to Byers’ prominence, his death received much publicity. The Wall Street Journal ran a headline reading “The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off” after his death. William Bailey was never tried for Byers’ death, although the Federal Trade Commission issued an order against his business. However this did not stop Bailey from trading in radioactive products. He later founded a new company – “Radium Institute”, in New York – and marketed a radioactive belt-clip, a radioactive paperweight, and a mechanism which made water radioactive.
Интересно в этой истории то, что Бауэрс не только сам упивался бодрящей водою (пока не заработал некроз костей) но, будучи заботливым человеком, закупал радитор ящиками для друзей (это был его любимый подарок), угощал слуг, гостей, и знакомых, не жалея денег на добрые дела (каждая банка стоила состояние). Hикто из них не заболел. В начале 90-х знакомый посетил могилу Бауерса (после перезахоронения в свинцовом ящике) и сделал гамма-авторадиографию пленкой на поверхности! Виден был весь скелет. Таких случаев были в Америке тысячи, включая работниц завода, изготовляющего фосфоресцирующие стрелки в часах.
Почему радий убивал одних и щадил других, вероятно, из-за особенностей костного метаболизма, плохо известно. В 1993-м году у нас закрыли группу эпидемиологов, пытавшуюся найти ответ на этот вопрос.
Это было, насколько я знаю, единственное крупномасштабное исследование того, как радиоактивные вещества в организме влияют на здоровье людей в долгой перспективе. 1000 пациентов были еще живы, когда были уничтожены их медицинские истории.