24 Dangerous Toys from Past and Present

Image Credit: Bill Kolb

I have this weird fascination with deadly kid's toys. Meaning toys for children that generally were not well thought out or were not looked into ahead of time for safety precautions. In the 50's, you could pretty much hand cancer-causing mercury to kids and tell them to play with it. But thankfully, over time, things have changed.

The cool thing, we don't forget.

A great many of these deadly and dangerous toys may not exist anymore, but our minds wont let us erase them. There is a list of 24 Dangerous Toys from Past and Present over at URLesque, and I wont lie, a few of the items on the list shocked me. We are not just talking about small objects kids could choke on. We are talking about toys that could seriously kill your child. Like the above pictured "Atomic Energy Lab" which was just chock full of things no child should ever handle without a hazmat suit.

Now you just need to sit a kid down in front of the TV with a video game controller in their hand and they are fine for hours. But in the olden days, fun often went hand-in-hand with the risk of injury or death. I mean, all I need to end this on is two words to make my point:

Lawn darts.


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Pretty much everything in the Gilbert Atomic Energy lab kit you can still get from educational suppliers today, is not something particularly dangerous, and can be an entertaining component to actually teaching modern physics.

From what I've seen before, it basically had four radiation detectors: Geiger-Muller tube counter (which unfortunately is and was kind of expensive, leading to cheaper kits with everything else), an electroscope, which is something you can build from household items, a phosphor based detector, and a cloud chamber. A cloud chamber lets you see paths of ionizing radiation and building one was one of the more fond memories I had from middle school. The kit also had a selection of small radioactive sources , something else still available from educational supplies (price has gone up a lot in the couple decades since I last bought some). These are not particularly dangerous as long as they are kept outside of the body, like a lot of things in our day-to-day life.

And for that matter, elemental and many other forms of mercury have virtually no evidence linking it to causing cancer in humans, with some evidence in animals for methymercury. It is still a very dangerous substance without care and not something I would give to a kid, but it is not dangerous because it causes cancer.
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Knott's Berry Farm sold phosphorescent paint. Pretty much all watches had "radium dials". There were lots of dangerous chemicals around in those days (40s and 50s).
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