When We Thought Radioactivity Was Healthy
Hoo boy. Eben Byers.
I feel a little weird about ending on an empty panel like that. I don’t think anything is too serious to be joked about, but in this case I thought any joke I could come up with would take away from the point, which is that this dude died, horribly, because of a health fad. If you’re still curious, you can check out this article from the Wall Street Journal. It’s called The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off.
And radium water was far from the only product in its category. There were radioactive water coolers, radioactive tablets, radioactive humidifiers (with scary breath mask), radioactive hot springs, radioactive toothpaste… there was even this thing called the Radioendocrinator, which you’d wear in your underwear to make your sperm more active or something. And then there was this. Here’s a site I found with even more.
So why would people buy these things? As far as I can tell, people thought the effects would be more Spiderman than leukemia. It made sense, from a certain angle. Radioactivity was new, exciting, and apparently natural (there really is radon in a lot of hot springs). Scientists at the time were theorizing that cosmic radiation might have had something to do with evolution, and it wasn’t until a few years later that pioneers like Marie Curie started dying of radioactivity-related illnesses.
So charlatans started putting out products, and people started buying them. From what I’m reading, it seems like the usual pitch was:
1) It’s based on new discoveries
2) It’s 100% natural
3) You should have more of it
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty familiar to me. Like, every single product in alternative health stores. I’m not saying those will kill you – they’ll probably mostly do nothing. But you know what else is 100% natural? Rattlesnakes. I wouldn’t buy a rattlesnake suppository.
Jokes aside, if you’re in the kind of desperate situation where you’re willing to try anything, I feel for you. I really do. But please be careful. And next time someone claims something is good for you because it’s “natural,” maybe remember Radithor.
On a completely unrelated note, my wisdom teeth are gone now, and I’m off the painkillers, so I should be back on a weekly-ish schedule again? I don’t know what topic I’ll do next week, but I want to make it something Asian really badly. Maybe…Management Secrets of Genghis Khan?