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Useful Materials Which Turned Out to Be Lethal

Useful Materials Which Turned Out to Be Lethal

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Published by robotinthebackroom
What harm have we wrought to ourselves across the ages?
What harm have we wrought to ourselves across the ages?

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Published by: robotinthebackroom on Apr 24, 2013
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11/23/2013

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Useful Materials ... Which Turned Out to be Lethal
Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Indeed, ignorance can be costly, heartbreaking and
-sometimes- lethal. We might snigger at fashion plates who dripped deadly nightshade intheir eyes or the practices of quack doctors, but who are we to judge? It was onlyrelatively recently we discovered the harmful properties of all sorts of things.Here are a few
of the deadliest ‘silent killers’ in history ...
 
 Arsenic
Fans of murder mysteries are well acquainted with this mother of poisons. What theymight not know is our Victorian forefathers used it in practically
everything.
Wallpaper. Soaps and shampoos. Cures for morning sickness, asthma, eczema and acne.An early form of Viagra. When fabric was dipped in it, it turned a striking shade of green. This, when applied to playing cards, toys, clothing and even underwear, could
have dire results. One ball gown was discovered to contain sixty grains of Scheele’s
Green arsenic per square yard- enough to poison twelve people!Since it was commonly used for rat poison, anybody could buy arsenic without a licence.Its innocuous appearance led to all kinds of ghastly accidents, like the funeral where thecooks served rice pudding with arsenic instead of sugar.
 
 
Lead
One theory posited about the fall of the Roman Empire was it was caused by theplumbing- or, rather, lead piping drove the aristocracy and thus the emperors mad. Amore likely culprit seems to have been the copious amounts of wine, boiled in leadcauldrons. Since your average Roman drank two litres of wine a day, that would be agood deal of ingested lead!Another inappropriate use of lead was Elizabethan makeup. Since the monarch was theheight of fashion, women artificially tinted their faces to look like her. The most 
common cosmetic was ‘ceruse’
- a mixture of white lead and vinegar, smeared in a thick layer over the face, neck and bosom. Unsurprisingly it was highly toxic.
 
Radiation
It seems incredible now, but during the Cold War years, members of the Americanpublic were bombarded with radiation. Tourists
watched nuclear testing from a ‘safe’
distance, as though they were watching a firework display!There are reports of company CEOs keeping radioactive bars on their desks aspaperweights. Other peculiar uses of radiation included
toilets (it’d glow as it flushed),
shoe fitting fluoroscopes and treatments for acne and freckles in beauty salons.Tragically many children and babies were radiated for thymus problems in the Fifties,only to develop cancer years later.
Smoking
Although it had been practised since ancient times- shamans in the Americas usedtobacco to attain a trance state- smoking
didn’t reach our shores till the 16
th
century. Bythen it had gone from religious rite to social activity, quickly adopted by Europeantraders. Not everybody was keen: James I wrote a polemic,
 A Counterblaste to Tobacco,
and tried to enforce a 4000% tax increase.Before the 1940s, objections to smoking were as likely to be socioeconomic as moral orhealth related. In 1950 Richard Doll published the first study to draw links betweensmoking and lung cancer; a few years later it was made official. This about-turn finallyconvinced a sceptical public- doctors had endorsed them as health aids.

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