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Radium, facts about radium

Radium is a very rare metal which is extremely radioactive. It gives off intense streams of atomic particles, or radiation. This radiation is widely used in medicine for treating cancer. But in large doses the radiation is very dangerous. Marie Curie, who with her husband Pierre discovered radium in 1898, died of leukemia caused by constant exposure to radiation.

By giving off radiation from its atoms, radium changes, or decays, eventually into lead. Radium itself is formed by the decay of the radioactive element uranium. (See Radioactivity, facts for discoverer of radioactivity). Luminous paints contain traces of radium compounds. The radiation causes chemicals in the paint, such as zinc sulphide, to glow in the dark.

Radium is found in uranium ores such as pitchblende, but the total world production is only a few ounces a year.

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