Here Are Some Of The Completely Insane Things We Used To Do With Radioactive Material

Tho-Radia was a bizarre radioactive cosmetic. Kelly Michals/Flickr

Radiation in the modern world is something that sounds scary and dangerous – although it’s often misrepresented. Nonetheless, it can cause serious health issues in high doses.

This was something that wasn’t really known about a century ago. Newly discovered, people didn’t know much about what radiation could do to the body.

As a result, we ended up with things like radioactive cosmetics, toys, and even water. Today, it’s quite easy to look back in shock at some of those things. Back then, it probably seemed quite normal.

So here are some of the craziest everyday things that we once laced with radiation. In case you somehow have the means to, don’t try these at home.


In the early 20th century, people began adding things like radium to water in order to give the drink supposed health benefits.

One of these was the drink Radithor, a medicine in which radium was mixed with water. It was purported to provide energy to the drinker, like a modern energy drink, and even cure impotence.

Of course, it had the somewhat unknown side-effect of delivering radium directly into human bones. These, over time, could lead to holes in the skull and other rather ghastly ailments.

A steel tycoon called Eben Byers was a particular fan of Radithor, recommending it to his friends. He later became so ill that his mouth and jaw were surgically removed, leading to a 1932 headline in The Wall Street Journal: “The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off.” 

A bottle of delicious Radithor. Sam LaRussa/Wikimedia Commons


The company Gilbert produced a weird array of radioactive toys in the 20th century. One of these was the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which contained four types of uranium ore that could be studied. It also had a Geiger counter and an electroscope.

The high price of $50 for the product meant that it was only on shelves from 1950 to 1951, allowing kids to see radioactive processes taking place. And if you were (un)lucky enough to get one, you could also take part in a $10,000 hunt to find uranium ore.

“That's what the United States Government will pay to anyone who discovers substantial deposits of Uranium Ore!” the box excitingly proclaimed.

“Warning: Hunting for uranium may result in your premature death,” it forgets to add.

Looks like fun... Webms/Wikimedia Commons
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