19th Century
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11 Common Household Products From Victorian England That Could Kill You

Updated September 23, 2021 103.4k views11 items
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The Victorian Era was fraught with danger. New machines were invented - but not perfected - as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and many of them were gruesome accidents just waiting to happen. And if you were injured while using that fancy sewing machine or water pump, that could be the end of the line for you. Medical care was still developing during this age, and a lack of understanding about germs and disease could finish you off in the hospital.

Of course, many horrible deaths happened during the Victorian Age simply in the course of everyday life. From deadly makeup to wallpaper that leeched poison, killer household items were everywhere. Even fashion posed a risk - that whalebone corset could cause lasting damage while it cinched in your waist. Read on to discover more Victorian death facts about common products, and consider yourself lucky to be living in more modern times.

  • Plastic Toys Exploded

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Parkesine was one of the very first forms of plastic. It was invented during the Victorian Era, and became incredibly popular. This plastic was molded into combs, collars, children's toys, and billiard balls, among other things. The only problem was that the compound was very combustible, and could explode on impact, making those games of billiards quite dangerous indeed.

  • Wallpaper Poisoned People With Arsenic Dust

    Photo: shaire productions / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Wallpaper was a big trend in interior decor during the Victorian Era. But not just any wallpaper - Scheele's Green wallpaper. This specific shade of green was created with the use of arsenic. Unfortunately, the deadly chemicals in the dye would flake off over time, turning into a dust that was easily inhaled. This was particularly dangerous for infants and young children, who would get lung diseases and even die from breathing in small amounts of the dust. 

  • Boracic Acid "Purified" Milk And Killed Children

    Photo: Miami U Libraries/Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Before pasteurization, drinking tainted milk could make a person sick, but usually not kill them outright. During the Victorian Era, rumors spread that boracic acid - also known as boric acid - would purify milk and make it keep for longer. People took to this idea in droves, and added the white powder to milk that their children drank. Unfortunately, the poison caused vomiting and diarrhea, and killed around 500,000 children in England.

  • Toilets Could Burst

    Photo: ALAN SOUTHWORTH/CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

    Indoor plumbing was a new invention during the Victorian period. It was convenient, and running water made indoor sinks, bathtubs, and toilets a popular addition to homes. On the contrary, public sewage systems weren't yet perfected. Methane would back up in the sewers and spread into homes, where the gas would explode when brought into contact with lit candles. In some cases, the toilet would explode, killing the person in the room at the time.