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11 Everyday Things That Once Could Have Killed You

30 January 2014 No Comment

Or at least ruined your life forever.

Hats

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The secret to men looking so dapper during the 1800s? Mercury. Hatmakers used the toxic compound when crafting fur into felt, and after prolonged exposure, mercury poisoning would cause them to act erratic — even give them the shakes — which is where the phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from. So when Alice encountered the unhinged Hatter in Wonderland, it wasn’t that far from reality.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Makeup

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Contrary to our passion for tans, looking ghostly was trendy centuries ago. Lead, mercury and arsenic “complexion wafers” were just some ingredients in products used or sold to pale skin.

Via pinterest.com

Wallpaper

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If walls could talk in the 1800s, they’d probably yell at you to get out. Dyes that contained arsenic to give them a lovely green hue were used in wallpapers, which proved poisonous — even without consuming them. Though the cause of Napoleon’s death is still debated, some researchers speculate that the high levels of arsenic found in his body could have been absorbed from his surroundings (including his green wallpaper).

Flickr: wdwbarber / Creative Commons

Alcohol

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Well, duh. But this booze wasn’t a kegger gone terribly awry. During Prohibition, bootleggers asked chemists to strip undrinkable chemicals from industrial alcohol (used for paints and other supplies) to make it drinkable. Because they hated fun, the U.S. government ordered more poisons be added to make that impossible, killing hundreds of people.

Flickr: uhmlibrary / Creative Commons


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