Nuclear power has long been touted as a Utopian technology, ushering in an era of work-free, unlimited energy supply and correspondingly longer and healthier lives. Today it is more well-known for its dangers, which include the atom bomb and radiation poisoning . Yet for 40 years, Radium was a popular tonic added to everything from tea to lipstick. We’ve decided to explore some of the strangest radioactive products in history and the effects they might have had on those that used them.
Tho-Radia Face Cream
Promising instant curative and beautifying effects, Tho-Radia gained wide popularity in France during the early 1930′s as a range of beauty products and perfumes. The face cream was especially popular and contained of 0.5g thorium chloride and 0.25mg radium bromide per 100g. It was even advertised as a creation of ‘Dr. Alfred Curie’ although he was not a member of the Curie family and probably never existed.
Radium Watch Dials
In the early 1900′s luminescent clock and watch faces featured digits painted using paint Radium paint, the most common version being Undark, created by the United States Radium Corporation. Young women painters of the dials used to point their brushes by licking the bristles, a practice that resulted in severe radium ingestion, eventually causing facial bone disintegration and other dental problems.
Radium water from Joachimstal was used in the production of loaves manufactured by the Hippman-Blach bakery in what is now the Czech Republic. Although the production technique would have led to an increase in radium levels, the amount present in the bread was not dangerous.
The Scrotal Radiendocrinator
The Radiendocrinator was intended to be placed over the endocrine glands to invigorate sexual virility and consisted of seven radium soaked pieces of paper, about the size and shape of a credit card, covered with a thin piece of clear plastic and two gold-wire screens. Men were advised to place the instrument under the scrotum at night like an ‘athletic strap’. The inventor of the Radiendocrinator (and Radithor), William J. Bailey, had so much faith in his products he claimed not only that he regularly used them, but that he had drunk more radium water than any living man – he died in 1949 of bladder cancer.
Radium Chocolate manufactured by Burk & Braun was sold in Germany from 1931 to 1936, advertised for its powers of rejuvenation.
These radioactive suppositories promised to make ‘weak discouraged men’ literally ‘bubble over with joyous vitality’ and were produced by the Home Products Company of Denver, Colorado.
For Radium Suppositories, soluble radium was added to a cocoa butter base in the form of a suppository and was introduced into the rectum in order to stimulate “the weakened organs that needed its vitalizing aid’. They were even shipped in plain packaging for confidentiality.
Radioactive Toy Set
The Atomic Energy Lab first went on sale in 1951 and featured low levels of genuine radioactive material for children to experiment with. It remained on sale until the late 1970′s and although the materials were labeled as ‘safe’ you wouldn’t find many parents today willing to let their kids play with uranium ore.
Radioactive Drinking Water
Ceramic jars that added radon to drinking water were popular during the early part of the 20th century. Revigator advertised itself as ‘nature’s way to health’ and its ores gave off millions of tiny rays of radiation that penetrated the water, creating ‘healthful radioactive water’.
Manufactured from 1918 to 1928 by the Bailey Radium Laboratories, Radithor was a well-known patent tonic that consisted of triple distilled water containing at a least one microcurie of Radium 226 and 228 isotopes. Said to cure stomach cancer, mental illness and restore sexual vigor and vitality, it was even advertised as ‘Perpetual Sunshine’ until it gained notoriety when Eben Byers, an American industrialist, drank a bottle a day for four year and consequently died in excruciating pain as cancer of the jaw caused his facial bones to disintegrate.
Doramad radioactive toothpaste was produced during World War II by Auergesellschaft of Berlin, a company founded by the inventor of the gas lantern mantle, Carl Auer von Welsbach. On the back of the tube it was 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.’