When I was a young boy I always envied Peter Parker because he was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained some pretty awesome powers, thus becoming Spider Man. Even now I still think it would be pretty cool to get bitten by a radioactive spider, but that’s just a part of my imagination. In reality Radium is highly dangerous and was used in the atom bomb and in radiation poisoning. Yet for 40 years people believed it was harmless and it was found in a range of products used by people on a daily basis. Here we’ll take a look at eight of the weirdest radioactive products that people actually used.
1. Radium Toothpaste
Doramad was a toothpaste created in Germany in 1945. It was made by Auergesellschaft of Berlin, a company that was founded by the inventor of the gas lantern mantle, Carl Auer von Welsbach. On the back of the product’s tube it stated that ‘radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums… cells are loaded with new life energy, the destroying effect of bacteria is hindered… it gently polishes the dental enamel and turns it white and shiny.’
2. Radium Water
During the early periods of the 20th century ceramic jars added randon to drinking water. The people at the Radium Ore Revigator advertised their product as ‘nature’s way to health’. Their ores released millions of tiny rays of radiation into the water, which they were aware of. Rather than rectify this danger though they claimed it was nothing but ‘healthful radioactive water’.
3. Radioactive Toy Set
The Atomic Energy Lab was a toy set that allowed children to conduct their own experiments with genuine radioactive materials. It first went on sale in 1951 and remained on sale until the 1970s. The materials were labelled as “safe” and did only contain low levels of radioactive materials, but I bet there still wouldn’t be many parents in today’s world that would let their young children play with uranium ore.
4. Radium Suppositories
Produced by the Home Products Company of Denver, Colorado these radioactive suppositories made men believe that they could be transformed from ‘weak discouraged men’ into strong, heroic males that would ‘bubble over with joyous vitality’. Amazingly this wasn’t all though; soluble radium was added into a cocoa butter base that was in the form of a suppository. This was then supposed to be fitted into the rectumnin order to stimulate “the weakened organs that needed its vitalizing aid.’
5. Radium Chocolate
This schokolade bar was manufactured by Burk & Braun and was sold around Germany between 1931 and 1936. It was marketed with its power of rejuvenation as its focal selling point.
6. Radium Bread
Radioactive water was used in the mixing process in the production of loaves of bread. They were manufactured by the Hippman-Blach bakery in what is now the Czech Republic. Despite the actual technique of production potentially leading to high levels of radium the amount that was actually present in the bread was not deemed to be harmful. One simple mistake in the production process though and the bread could have been highly dangerous.
7. Radium Watch Dials
Watches were sold in the early 1900s that had luminescent faces that had been painted with radioactive paint. The most version of this being Undark, created by the United States Radium Corporation. Young women were hired to paint the watch faces and they used to lick the point of the bristles on the paint brushes to help moisten them. This led to serious casualties though as a result of severe radium ingestion. The women suffered facial bone disintegration and other dental problems.
8. Radioactive Medicine
Radithor was a well known form of medicine during the years between 1918 and 1928. It was manufactured by the Bailey Radium Laboratories and consisted of triple distilled water, which contained at a least one microcurie of Radium 226 and 228 isotopes. It was used for medicinal purposes and was said to cure stomach cancer, mental illness and restore sexual vigor and vitality. It was touted as being ‘Perpetual Sunshine’ until its reputation plummeted when Eben Byers, an American industrialist, was found dead. He drank a bottle a day for four years, which led to cancer of the jaw and an excruciatingly painful death.