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December 19, 2007

Exploring the Dangerous Trades With Dr Alice Hamilton

JAMA. 2007;298(23):2802-2804. doi:10.1001/jama.298.23.2802

Exploring the Dangerous Trades: The Autobiography of Alice Hamilton, M.D.
By Alice Hamilton.
433 pp.
Boston, MA, Atlantic Monthly Press/Little Brown, 1943.

A few months after the Armistice was signed and World War I came to a screeching halt, a 50-year-old physician named Alice Hamilton received an assignment from the US Department of Labor. She was to investigate the working conditions of copper miners in Arizona, many of whom had sustained various hand and finger injuries from the overuse of air jackhammers, a problem she had already studied in stonecutters.1 She was also to assess the miners' exposure to poisonous arseniureted hydrogen gases. Predictably, in an era when profit was paramount and the health of those who toiled in the industrial beehive a distant second, she was not warmly welcomed by the men who controlled the mining camps.

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