23 Dangerous Practices People Once Considered Safe

It’s in our nature to make mistakes, and the history of these 23 dangerous practices once deemed safe just goes to show how our judgments can sometimes lead to hazardous, even deadly outcomes.

Radium: The Glow of Danger

The radioactive allure of radium found its way into everyday products, from toothpaste to makeup. The tragic story of the Radium Girls, who suffered severe radiation poisoning, marked a turning point in occupational safety standards.

Flammable Fashion

Highly flammable clothing materials were the norm, naturally leading to tragic accidents. The move towards safer, flame-resistant fabrics has significantly reduced such risks.

Methamphetamine in WWII

Meth was widely consumed in WWII Germany as it was believed to enhance soldier performance — another example of the extremes societies have gone to in times of war.

Lysol Douches: A Dangerous Misconception

The misuse of Lysol as a feminine product represents a dark chapter in women’s health, where aggressive marketing overshadowed the severe risks associated with such practices.

Arsenic Green: A Deadly Shade of Fashion

The quest for vibrant colors led to the use of arsenic to produce a striking shade of green in the 1800s. Utilized in everything from wallpaper to clothing, this toxic trend had dire consequences, as it slowly poisoned those in constant contact with it.

DDT: From Pesticide to Public Enemy

DDT was once sprayed liberally for pest control, including on humans to combat lice. Its catastrophic environmental and health impacts eventually led to widespread bans.

The Radium Paint Peril

Used to create glow-in-the-dark watch dials, radium paint was a death sentence for the workers applying it. The horrifying consequences of radium exposure brought to light the need for workplace safety regulations.

Teflon and C8: The Sticky Situation

The chemicals used in producing non-stick Teflon cookware, particularly C8, have been linked to health issues, raising concerns about the materials we use in our kitchens.

Decaffeinating with Benzene

The quest for decaffeinated coffee once involved benzene, a known carcinogen. This dangerous method was abandoned as safer alternatives were developed.

Cocaine: From Soda to Medicine Cabinet

Cocaine’s stimulating properties led to its inclusion in early versions of Coca-Cola and as a medicinal ingredient. This normalization of a now-illegal drug reflects the changing tides of societal and medical norms.

Mercurochrome: A Questionable Cure

The use of Mercurochrome, containing mercury, for minor wounds was a common practice until its ban due to toxicity concerns.

The Front Seat Fiasco

Letting children ride in the front seat of cars, without the protection of modern safety standards, was a common practice that overlooked the potential for serious injury.

Danger in the Dashboard

Vintage cars with metal dashboards and no seatbelts epitomized the disregard for automotive safety in design, posing significant risks to passengers.

Smoking on Doctor’s Orders

In a shocking twist from today’s understanding, cigarettes were once prescribed to alleviate anxiety and other ailments. This practice highlights a drastic shift in the medical community’s understanding of smoking’s consequences.


Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscopes

Radiation was once used to ensure a perfect shoe fit, exposing children to harmful rays in the process. The pursuit of consumer satisfaction risked long-term health effects for a fleeting moment of retail assurance.

Opium for Newborns

Opium tinctures were given to soothe infants, a dangerous practice that ignored the drug’s addictive and harmful effects.

Chloroform for Childbirth

Chloroform was once used to alleviate the pain of childbirth, not without risk to both mother and child, until safer methods of pain relief were developed.

Phossy Jaw from Matchstick Making

Workers in match factories suffered from “phossy jaw,” a deadly condition caused by phosphorus exposure, leading to significant labor rights and chemical safety reforms.

Heroin as Cough Medicine

Imagine a world where heroin was the go-to for a pesky cough. Distributed by reputable companies, this dangerous substance was once a household medicine, underscoring a gross underestimation of its addictive and harmful nature.

Asbestos Snow

The magic of snowfall in “The Wizard of Oz” was brought to life with asbestos. This carcinogenic material was also marketed for festive home decorations, unknowingly inviting health hazards into homes.

Lead Paint: A Hidden Hazard

Lead-based paint adorned walls across the globe, posing a significant risk of lead poisoning, especially to children, leading to widespread bans and removal efforts.

Mercury’s Menace

The shiny allure of mercury fascinated many, leading to its casual handling in classrooms and the collection from broken thermometers. Little did people know, they were flirting with neurological damage.

X-ray Shoe Fitters

Shoe stores once used X-ray machines to fit shoes, exposing customers to unnecessary radiation. This practice was abandoned as the risks became apparent.

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