Mad Hatters, Radium Girls and the Asbestos Hotel
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
As an industrial state, NJ is no stranger to industrial toxins. In recent decades, we have been home to over 140 Superfund cleanup sites administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Historically, three NJ industrial toxins-–-mercury, radium, and asbestos-–-have had their own harrowing stories to tell. The hat industry in Essex County, including South Orange and Orange, in the late 19th century, exposed workers to toxic mercury fumes, causing mental and physical disabilities. Dozens of radium dial painters at a factory in Orange–-all young women---suffered and died from radiation in the 1920s and '30s. In the mid-20th century, workers in Manville, the “asbestos city,” fell ill with damaged lungs, as did workers who installed the insulation products produced at the Manville plant.