Comment of the Day: Radioactive Bones Edition

Illustration for article titled Comment of the Day: Radioactive Bones Edition

Today, we tracked the very best explosions in space, watched Skynet choose its very first target (The International Space Station? Noooo!), and harkened back to a simpler time in medicine, one marked by house calls, personalized care, and, uh, lead-lined coffins.


In response to this post looking at ten famous people whose medical treatments were the cause rather than the cure for their illnesses, commenter The Pessimist fills in some of the details behind steel-tycoon Eben Byer's treatment for an injured arm, the 1400 (!) bottles of radium water that (not surprisingly at all) did not lead to his full recovery, and a newspaper headline writer who didn't pull any punches:

Byer's death was reported in a 1932 issue of The Wall Street Journal, under the headline, "The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off." It reported that Byers had consumed nearly 1400 bottles of radium-infused health elixir, originally suggested to him as a possible cure for the pain that had plagued his arm since falling from his berth on a chartered train.

He developed bone loss, in his jaw and elsewhere, and died of cancers attributed to the curative. His radioactive body was buried in a lead-lined coffin. When his body was exhumed by MIT researchers in 1961, his bones were still radiating.


Image: Praisaeng / Shutterstock

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Radium-226 has a half-life of over 1,600 years. Those bones are going to be measurably radioactive for a long, long time.