Dexter Masters, 80; Pioneer in Consumer Protection

United Press International

Dexter Masters, a pioneer in consumer protection who initiated the monitoring of nuclear radiation in milk, died Wednesday of bronchial pneumonia. He was 80, Consumers Union announced Thursday.

A writer and editor, Masters from 1958 to 1963 headed Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Under his leadership, the magazine examined concerns ranging from the health hazards of smoking to nuclear fallout in milk.

Consumers Union analyzed milk samples from around the country for strontium 90 in the late 1950s, resulting in the first widely available information about fallout dangers from atmospheric nuclear tests.

The report showed potential hazards for the average citizen and prompted federal authorities to expand their monitoring efforts.


Worked at MIT

Masters brought to the Westchester County-based Consumers Union a background in nuclear issues, learned in a World War II job he held at the radiation laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A native of Springfield, Ill., and a graduate of the University of Chicago, Masters had written for Time and Fortune magazines and was the editor of Tide, once a leading journal of advertising and marketing.

He joined the staff at Consumers Union shortly after its founding in 1936 and for the next three decades served the magazine in a number of capacities.

He resigned as executive director to pursue his own writing projects and published several books, including a chronicle of his long involvement with consumerism, “The Intelligent Buyer and the Telltale Seller.”

‘Lack of Standards’

He wrote, “While in theory advertising can be made to serve fair and useful ends, in fact its lack of standards and controls means that it thrives in the hands of the simply greedy, the morally inept, and the socially backward.”

Since 1960, Masters lived primarily in Totnes, England. He died at St. John’s Hospice in Springfield, Ill., and is survived by his wife, Joan Brady Masters, and a son, Alexander Masters.