Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, discovered radium, a radioactive element, back in 1898. However, people didn't realize how dangerous the element was, and they began to use radium in household items. This led to radium in makeup, as well as in medical devices that claimed to cure everything from impotence to arthritis. However, what these quack devices actually led to was a plethora of surprisingly poisonous things, such as toothpaste, hair tonic, and suppositories.
When people began dying of mysterious diseases, such as the ones suffered by the Radium Girls, who painted luminous watch dials with Undark, a radium-based paint that they wound up ingesting via their paintbrushes, doctors finally realized that radium was dangerous.
The history of radium poisoning is full of odd devices designed to improve one's health and outer appearance. These everyday poisons were sold through magazine and newspaper ads – and in regular pharmacies. Thankfully, by the beginning of World War II, they had been phased out and are now an odd anecdote from American history.
Radium-Lined Cups Were Used To Make Radioactive Beverages
People Submerged Themselves In Radium-Laced Water At Spas
Laying In Radioactive Sand Was A Treatment For Arthritis
Men Placed Wax Coated Radium Rods In Their Urethras As A Cure For Impotence
Radium Toothpaste Claimed To Make Teeth White And ShinyPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY
Radithor Supposedly Cured Impotence And Other Health-Related Woes