Tired of buying the same ol’ holiday gifts year after year? Looking for that truly rare, one-of-a-kind present for the impossible to buy for relatives in your life? We have just the thing – radioactive elements.
We’re joking (sort of). Believe it or not, there was a time when radiation was considered good for you – and nobody understood just how serious the effects of long-term radiation exposure really were. As a result, there were plenty of radioactive items for sale in everything from housewives’ magazines, to the Sears & Roebuck catalog and even the corner drugstore.
Real Live Examples of Radioactive Household Items & Gifts
Imagine finding one of these gifts under your holiday tree or as the result of your dreidel spin.
- Radioactive face cream. Women the world over were excited to try a range of Tho-Radia cosmetic products, including face creams, lipstick, perfumes, and powders. Why wouldn’t they when the radioactive ingredients promised to enhance your youthful glow. Fortunately, this makeup didn’t stay on the market for very long.
- Doromad toothpaste. If you lived in Germany between the years 1940 and 1945, you may have been the proud owner of Doromad toothpaste. This paste contained radioactive thorium, which was marketed to make teeth glow a little brighter and whiter….before they fell out, we would imagine. The good news is thorium was added in minimal amounts. The bad news is that users ingested and absorbed low-doses of radiation as for the duration that they used the products, and we won’t even think about the radiation that was going down drains into sewers, storm drains and groundwater supplies.
- The Atomic Energy Lab for the kids! Of all the radioactive products that were given as holiday gifts, this one is the most bittersweet. Well-intentioned parents who gifted, atomic scientist children their very own Atomic Energy Lab had their hearts in the right place. Created during the 1950s by the same guy who brought us the infamous Erector Sets, the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory introduced children to basic radioactive elements and the experiments to show them off. It even included its very own Geiger counter. Unfortunately, children and parents who purchased the lab are not eligible for Radiation Exposure Compensation.
- Radiation for arthritis relief and erectile dysfunction. When radioactive isotopes were first discovered, there was no lack of advertised health wonders attributed to them. One example of this is Radithor, with a subheading that read, “The modern weapon of curative science.” Well, that was certainly the truth. The radioactive water was infused with Radium-226 and 228 isotopes. Unfortunately, true believers suffered serious side effects, such as famous socialite and athlete Eben Beyers. Mr. Beyers was a big consumer of Radithor and was reported to have consumed 1400 small bottles of the stuff (before you scoff – add up the number energy drinks your fellow countrymen consume each day). After a couple of years, he became extremely ill, had to have parts of his mouth and jaw removed, and eventually died.
- The first luminescent watches. The glow-ability of certain radioactive elements wasn’t lost on commercial giants. Hence, in the early 1900s, certain watchmakers used a radium-based dye to paint the numbers onto the watch faces so they would glow in the dark. Again, unfortunately, without an understanding of how dangerous radiation exposure was (no ALARA awareness back then), many of the women who painted the digits fell ill, were disfigured and many eventually died because they habitually licked the brushes to smooth the bristles in between paint strokes.
So that’s the reality of life before radiation awareness. Fortunately, times have changed.
Real Radiation-Themed Holiday Gifts That Won’t Make Your Parts Fall Off
If, however, you have a person on your gift list who might like a little laugh, we do have a few radiation-themed suggestions for you.
- Tee-Shirts and Onesies. The famed site, Cafepress, has a wide range of T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags and even onesies with radioactive symbols and clever messages. Some of them even glow in the dark, sans any threat of radiation.
- A Glow-in-the-Dark Coaster Set. This is probably the best crowd pleaser of the bunch, and one of our personal favorites. The team at ThinkGeek created a glow-in-the-dark coaster set. Each square is modeled from the radioactive elements on the periodic table, consisting of Radium-226 (Red), Plutonium-244 (Blue), Uranium-238 (Green), and Thorium-232 (Orange).
- Radiation Hazard Fallout Keychain. We’re also fans of this Radiation Hazard Fallout Keychain sold on Etsy. It’s handmade, using a high-definition decal, covered with a dome crystal glass, set on an antique bronze-finished housing.
Those of us here at LANCS wish you and your family a very happy, safe and radiation-free holiday season.
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