Society was literally accelerating at a faster pace during the Industrial Revolution. People were going places at a rate like never before in the age of locomotives, automobiles, steamships and airplanes. Home life was also sped up with early appliances for communications and domestic work – everything from telephones to sewing machines soon became commonplace. In a time where processes became more efficient and everyone had the opportunity to earn good money, what could possibly go wrong?
The age of invention came with lots of experimentation and research only to be learned and improved from trial and error. Homes were filled with silent killers that were only seen as dangerous until after it was too late. Here are some of the things in many homes that caused countless deaths. Unfortunately, some dangers had to be learned the hard way – click next to see how a bright idea went up in flames.
Once electricity was invented, it provided a new source of energy unlike anything before. Before the time of professional electricians, this new, clean energy had no regulation and it proved to be deadly, even among the top experts. A friend of Thomas Edison even died from electrocution, and that was someone who understood electricity. Just about anyone could do the electric wiring in their home, a problem only compounded by lack of insulation and electric gadget inventions.
Bare cables ran through walls and rooms and touching it would result in instant electrocution. Other appliances were plugged in directly at the main line for lighting, which created a “Christmas tree effect” of cables running from counter tops to the line dangling from the ceiling. This incorrect use of electricity running at irregular voltages caused numerous deadly fires. Wires in reach of young children were far from the only concern – click next to uncover how babies were in danger.
Killer Baby Bottles
While we may think that mothers in the “olden-days” were brought up to be housewives; the truth is that they have always been looking for ways to live more efficiently. While many parents opt for breast feeding, mothers back then were eager to detach their babies from their bosoms. In fact, bottle feeding babies was seen as a demand of modern society, as more women entered the workforce.
In 1860, the long-tube feeding bottle was invented and marketed as self-feeding for babies. Since the milk was sucked from the glass bottle into the nipple through a rubber tube, they were virtually impossible to clean. These killer bottles acted as an incubator for deadly bacteria, which multiplied inside the bottle. No one understood how crucial it was to properly sanitize feeding bottles, which wasn’t banned until 1910. This practice killed hundreds of babies – click next for another killer if they were to survive.
Childhood Lead Poisoning
If babies were fortunate enough to have survived the killer bottles and were born into an upper class home, many had their very own toys. In general, childhood mortality dropped compared to previous generations, which led to more emotional support from parents, who began to indulge in their children. Unfortunately, in this case, giving your children what you never had led to another unsuspecting killer.
Many toys were laden with lead paint, which caused a spike in childhood lead poisoning. This term wasn’t coined until 1904, when authorities finally understood the link between the childhood mortality rate and products containing lead paint. Regulating the uses of lead paint proved to be a struggle, since many products marketed for children’s use continued to contain lead paint up through the 1970’s. Children were at risk of exposure from any household items, to their cribs, to toys. Click next for another killer no one was safe from.
The miracle mineral asbestos was praised for its “clean energy” properties as inventors began looking for an alternative to coal for heating. As they discovered its other properties for sound-proofing, insulation, non-flammability, Westerners started importing the cheap mineral to manufacture products on an industrial scale. As factories started to process asbestos, it was soon observed how it would turn into a fine powder that would stay suspended in the air for long periods of time.
A concern was issued about the working conditions in the factories, but nothing was done about it, since the asbestos industry was far too lucrative to discontinue completely. Hundreds of workers inhaled the tiny shards of asbestos and developed related complications including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos used in the home carried the same risks of inhalation if it were to be disturbed and dispersed into the air. Click next for an invention that was made to kill.
Back in the “olden days”, food at to be purchased fresh daily as an attempt to prevent food poisoning. Few lucky households used literal iceboxes – wooden cabinets lined with sawdust and kept cool with ice imported from the Arctic. The first refrigerator aimed to revolutionize food preservation and cooking, but prototypes that made it into households came at a deadly price. Inventors designed an evaporation process using chemicals to create a constant cooling effect that would work as long as it was plugged in.
While this was a million-dollar idea, they didn’t think to seal the refrigerator, so leakages were very common. Chemicals used in early refrigerators included ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ether; during a leakage, the noxious chemicals would fill the air. If that alone didn’t kill, switching on a light would be enough to cause a lethal explosion. The kitchen wasn’t the only dangerous place for women – click next to reveal how beauty was a killer.
It wasn’t legally mandatory to test products before they hit the market. In addition to allowing toxic products be used for human consumption, companies didn’t need to include the ingredients on the label. Face creams were applied to obtain a lily white complexion, which actually contained ammonia and bleach. Arsenic wafers were digested or arsenic soap was scrubbed into the skin to get rid of blemishes. To complete a pale complexion, face powders contained lead, because of the element’s white color.
Rosy cheeks were achieved with rouge and its key ingredient was often vermillion. Vermillion is derived from mercury and poisoned the women, who seemingly died in the name of beauty. For whatever reason, dying eyelashes and eyebrows during the time period was top beauty trend, but the products containing harsh chemicals often caused blindness. For another deadly trend, click next to uncover another way women went blind.
Deadly nightshade, also known as Belladonna, was a drug extracted from the plant. These extracts were used as eye drops to dilate the pupils. This very “woke” look was seen as desirable and was thought to make young women look like porcelain dolls. If these vintage beauty gurus were lucky, they’d make do with blurred vision or other minor side effects like dry mouth. But in most cases, this drug had very damaging effects on the body, causing an irregular heartbeat and blindness.
Many women suffered additional conditions before the risks associated with this eye-catching seductive look became common knowledge. Continued use of deadly nightshade resulted in complications during pregnancy. Alongside melancholia or hysteria, young women experienced mental illness symptoms from ingesting deadly nightshade. If you can’t imagine a death more tragic for a young woman, click next to reveal a killer that wasn’t discovered until it was already too late.
After the discovery of radium, inventors soon got in on the craze to develop new ways of using the new element. One of the most exciting uses was radioluminescent paint – night life came alive in a brand new way thanks to the glow-in-the-dark properties of radium. Soon, radium dials became the new, must-have item in every household. However, these glow-in-the-dark clocks were safety hazards themselves and created deadly working conditions for factory workers.
The so-called Radium Girlswere responsible for painting the dials and had little instruction in handling the radioactive material. Not only were they directly exposed to the paint, but they also willingly ingested it, wetting the brush with their mouths to create a fine point while painting. They developed radium poisoning and phossy jaw which caused tumors, rotting tissue, organ failure and death.This was far from the only way people willingly ingested radium – click next to reveal the shocking truth.
Doctors and quacks alike were excited by the prospects radium could bring to the medical field. Little was understood about this energy, but the philosophy was the more energy absorbed into the body, the better the results in healing illnesses. X-rays and radiation therapy for cancerous tumors are the only practices we still use today in modern medicine. All the other early ideas in radium therapy proved to be deadly, but the detrimental effects of radium poisoning were discovered far too late.
The body processes radium particles just like calcium, so it would be stored in the bones and continue to do damage for years on end, slowly breaking down the body. Anyone who received hydrotherapy charged with radium or phototherapy would soon be doomed. Radium also brought excitement to any kind of product imaginable and hundreds of people ingested it in toothpaste, clothing, chocolate and even condoms.