Medicine: Radium Drinks

Medicine: Radium Drinks
Eben MacBurney Byers, 51, popular
Pittsburgh sportsman and ironmaster, fell out of an upper berth five
years ago returning from a Yale-Harvard football game. He hurt his
arm. His Pittsburgh physiotherapist, Dr. Charles Clinton Moyar,
prescribed a patented drink called ”Radithor.” It was distilled water
containing traces of radium and mesothorium . The dope eased the arm pain, braced Byers up. He
enthusiastically recommended it to friends, sent them cases of it, even
gave some to one of his horses. Last week Eben Byers died in Manhattan
of radium poisoning. His close friend Mrs. Mary F. Hill of Pittsburgh
died last autumn of the same cause. Other of his friends are gravely
worried. Byers’ prominence made his death a great scandal. He was chairman of A.
M. Byers Co., Pittsburgh makers of wrought iron pipe, was connected
with coke, docks and banking. He was a fine, widely known sportsman. In
1906 he won the national amateur golf championship. For years he kept a
box at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh. In England and the U.S. he
had racing stables. He won trophies at trap shooting. He maintained
homes at Pittsburgh, Southampton, L.I., and Aiken, S.C., often
visited Palm Beach. Eighteen months ago, after hundreds of drinks of the radium tonic, he
began having pains in his jaw, severe headaches. Dr. Joseph Manning
Steiner, Manhattan x-ray specialist who had seen several of the young
women poisoned in U.S. Radium Corp.’s factory to dissolve
radium salts in water; 2> to expose water to radium emanation. Doctors
thought that they had evidence that waters so treated would cure
chronic arthritis, gout, neuritis, high blood pressure. The Bureau of
Investigation of the American Medical Association soon found that
quacks were selling the waters as cures for “anemia, leukemia,
boils, blackheads and pimples.” The A. M. A. Council on Pharmacy
& Chemistry withdrew approval of devices purporting to make waters
radioactive. After the young New Jersey women who painted watch dials
with radium preparations began dying, experts denounced the use of
radium internally. Particularly vocal were Dr. Flinn of Columbia and
Dr. Harrison Stanford Martland, medical examiner of Essex County, N.
J. With radium applied externally and for short periods to destroy
cancers they had no quarrel. But imbibed radium accumulated in the
bones. It was certain death, because, before its ravages could
be recognized, it had destroyed a fatal amount of bone. The great fear
of the experts is not for people who drink radioactive water under
doctors’ orders , but people who buy
the stuff on their own responsibility. There is usually something of
the proselytizer in people who stimulate themselves with tonics. A
notable one in the news last week was Mayor James John Walker of New
York. One of his good friends, a Mrs. Clarabelle Walsh who lives in the
Hotel Plaza, advised him to drink the stuff because “he was
suffering so.” Three times a day he squeezes the rubber bulb of a
device called a “Radiumator,” which supplies water with
short-lived radium emanation. Experts say that aside from the
psychological effect, the only good derived is from the quantities of
water imbibed, none from the emanations. But Mayor Walker, with the
persistence of a convinced self-medicator, declared last week: “I
won’t stop using it.”