Scary Science That Humans Have Foolishly Embraced

250 BCE Lead, Lead Wine

Ancient Romans use lead in everything from paint to dishware to plumbing, despite warnings from Caesar's engineers.

Actually, Romans love the stuff so much that they add lead acetate to wine as a sweetener.

Lead poisoning runs rampant, leading future historians to speculate that lead-induced insanity caused the fall of Rome. (Image: Dionysus as baby by Guido Reni)

50 CE Listen To Your Elder

Roman historian Pliny the Elder notes that asbestos in clothing "affords protection against all spells, especially those of the Magi." If that's not handy enough, the Romans also discover that asbestos is a strong building material, and that it can make tablecloths flame retardant. (Simply burn off the food to clean them!)

Curiously, Pliny also warns against purchasing slaves who've worked in asbestos quarries. He writes, "They die young."

1527 CE Opium for the Masses

Physician and toxicologist Philippus Paracelsus prescribes opium as a painkiller throughout Europe. Using his marketing genius, he also re-brands the drug under the more wholesome name "laudanum."

During the next 300 years, the drug becomes as commonplace as Advil, and it's prescribed for everything from colds to diarrhea to insomnia.

Poets and novelists, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens, even take laudanum to cure writer's block. Mary Todd Lincoln combines the drug with camphor in an effort to commit suicide, but she's foiled by a suspicious pharmacist who plies her with sugar pills instead. (Photo: NLM Visible Proofs)

1850 CE And Speaking of Camphor ...

In the mid-1800s, swallowing camphor is thought to cure hysteria, cholera, and gout. Later, however, medics wise up to the toxic nature of the gummy compound, and it's relegated to things like fireworks and embalming fluid.

But camphor hasn't totally retired from its career in medicine. It's an active ingredient in Vicks VapoRub, anti-itch creams, and several other products with warning labels that read, "If swallowed, contact a Poison Control Center immediately."

1898 CE Heroin for Everyone!

Got a nagging cough? Some heroin will fix you right up. At least, that's what mothers believe in 1898, when they start buying Bayer Heroin for their sick kids.

Soon approved by the American Medical Association, the drug is marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute - which is wrong on many levels. Not only is heroin extremely addictive, but the body also metabolizes it into morphine.

When reports of extreme addiction become known, Bayer acknowledges its blunder and stops making the medicine in 1913. But for the next decade, heroin lozenges, heroin elixirs, and heroin tablets continue to dominate the market.

1920 CE Video Killed the Radium Star

Is there anything radium can't do? In the 1920s and early 1930s, companies tout it as a cure-all and put the radioactive element in toothpaste, ear plugs, soap, suppositories, and even contraceptives.

One of the biggest sellers is a radium-laced water called Radithor. Steel magnate Eben Byers drink approximately 1,400 bottles of the stuff over the course of several years, believing that it is the key to longevity.

After undergoing operations to remove parts of his mouth and jaw, he dies in 1932 as the rest of his bones disintegrate. The drink's popularity plummets after it's implicated in his death. (Photo: Oak Ridge Associated Universities)

1971 CE Breakfast of Champions

Executive Robert Loibl decides to prove that his company's pesticide, DDT, is completely harmless.

For three months, he and his wife take a concentrated dose of the poison every morning before breakfast. The Loibls report no negative side effects and claim to feel more energized after their "treatments."

Studies later confirm that DDT is not acutely toxic, but rather, that it induces certain cancers and neurological disorders that take years to develop. (Photo:

The article above, written by Stacy Conradt and Hank Green, appeared in Scatterbrained section of the Mar - Apr 2008 issue of mental_floss magazine (the excellent "The Future of Sex" issue!). It is reprinted here with permission.

Don't forget to feed your brain by subscribing to the magazine and visiting mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog today!

"Studies later confirm that DDT is not acutely toxic, but rather, that it induces certain cancers and neurological disorders that take years to develop."

"Studies" I like that. On what, mice? Taken in what quantity and over what period of time?

The only known "neurological disorder" it has ever been known to cause, is among environmental leftists who have willingly sacrificed millions of third world children, victims of malaria, on the alter of their delusions.
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You go Art! Totally agree with Art on DDT. I'd also like to add that BCE and CE offend me. We made it for 2k years with BC/AD, and no one complained. Spare me the political correctness please.
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What is this "CE" garbage? How dare you offend the vast majority of your readers, who are Christians? The proper abbreviation is "AD," short for "anno Domini," which is Latin for "(in) the year of the Lord (Jesus Christ)." Please have some guts, and stop being offensive and "politically correct" at the same time. People can try to play games by using "CE," but the bottom line is that the number of the year refers to the number of years after the birth of Jesus, so there's no point in trying (and failing) to mask that fact, while also offending people. Thank you.
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@ John G
So it's okay to offend a minority, but not an assumed majority. Gotcha.

I am not a Christian, thank God, but I do have to agree the whole CE thing just seems like crap. I guess we are stuck with the Gregorian calendar (which doesn't even match up with when the alleged savior was allegedly born) since it is convenient and well-known… sort of like standard measurement in the US.

Really, if you think the calendar represents an endorsement of your religious views and not a convenience/force of habit/way of telling time, well, you're probably dumb enough to be offended when someone uses CE instead of AD.
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I've got no problem with some contrarians from coming up with their own calendar system. The Napoleanic French had a funky one for example. Where it gets obnoxious is when they completely co-opt the Gregorian calendar but merely attempt to de-Christianize it by defining events based upon a "Common Era". Well, fine, but they what exactly defines the timing of that Common Era? Oh, well, hummmm, er, it's the traditional birth of Christ. That's pathetic. If you are bothered using a Christian calendar system that has been the standard in Western Civilization for 2000 years, go make your own and completely separate it from Christian tradition.
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I think it's great that Christians are so kind, tolerant and loving. I can really feel the spirit of Christ in this thread.

Perhaps the Christians in this thread should spend a little less time worrying about BCE/CE/BC/AD, and spend more time trying to be Christ-like. You know, kind, loving, compassionate etc.

This is generally why I don't care for religion .. no one seems to be able to live it.
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And nooooow, back to the subject:

Wasn't there a public official in UK, who fed a hamburger to his granddaughter at the beginning of the the mad cow disease crisis? He would be a good entry for this list.
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Chinese alchemists in the 9th century invented gunpowder as an elixir of immortality. By the 13th century they were using cannons on the battlefield
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Religious fundamentalism can easily be added to this list of culturally acceptable delusions . . . the problem many people in America seem to have is that we perceive fundamentalists being everyone other than US.

That being said, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are douchebags representing the same ideological ignorance, just batting for the other team. Bring no the Robocalypse!
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You used to be able to buy heroin, coke, and opium over the counter. Heck, was I born in the wrong century...

I always thought the problem with DDT was that over-use made some insects resistant. (Quck Henry- the Flit!)
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yea i don't think we FOOLISHLY embraced these remedies, we just didn't know any better. i mean, you could consider them to be hollistic medicines, which are better for you anyway (although i'm not ruling out the importance of penicillin). i mean, who doesn't want to be high all the time? if you guys have seen "Deadwood" you would remember that everyone was either staggering drunk, high on opium, or tweaked out on laudanum. the main lady (i forget her name, i'm terrible) used laudanum for her headaches and knew she was addicted to it, yet the doctor (who was one of the drunkards) kept giving it to her despite her wishes.

@bob: yea, word.
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One day this Global Warming scam will be listed in a similar list. To think that such a miniscule amount of carbon can make such a big difference is ludacrous. Interesting that those that lost their power when communism for the most lost are now the biggest proponents of man-made global warming.Rant on.
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So Jim... you're happy we keep pumping all that crap into our atmosphere? I personally do think that global warming is happening, but *even if it isn't*, you think it's a good idea to keep poisoning our planet?
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jeez im gonna have to ignore some of these comments--some of you people need to grow up-- and try to once again bring this back on topic (or semi-topic):

the Roman emperors used gold cups to show their wealth but did not line the cups with any other method. it has been theorized that the gold molecules that leaked into their water/wine combined with the lead molecules already in the water, was the main cause of dementia/insanity that so many emperors seemed to suffer from. i dont know if it is 100% true but it makes sense
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Christians use BCE and CE too.

It is now universally accepted that when BC/AD was calculated, those doing it got the year wrong. So Jesus was actually born in a BC year, which, you are bound to agree, causes some philosophical problems with the definition.

To make matters worse, there is no year zero. So even if they had got it exactly right, he would still have been born in 1 BC, because he was not born on New Year's eve.

BCE/CE has neither of those complications and we all still know what it really refers to.
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@ Chrystal

Mr. Milloy is a known shill for big oil & tobacco. He has regularily recieved money from astroturf groups like "CropLife America" (formorly the American Crop Protection Association) - a group of pesticide producers. His site "Junk Science" is more aptly named than you may have first recognized.

However that has nothing to with the truth of the claims presented about DDT. Except he is basically wrong.

DDT has continued to be used selectively around the world and when it hasn't been it was often because of overuse as an agricultural pesticide. Resistance evolved in mosquitos and this often no longer made it cost effective.

Some environmental groups have aggressively campaigned against DDT - not always for for reasons that were accurate - but their impact has been exagerated. And the idea that you can get from a few environmentalists are "chicken littles" to saying that Racheal Carson is worse than Hiler is ridiculous.

Check out a slightly more balanced view from an entymologist:
"DDT is NOT a cure-all solution for malaria. It has to be used–if it is used–carefully, with planning, evaluation, and forethought. It’s easy to understand why some folks want DDT to be a panacea–Malaria is a horrible disease, and children suffer the most. But jumping in and randomly spraying DDT can have the potential to make things worse, not better, in the long run."

Deltoid's series is enlightening as well:
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Another common 'food' that will soon be proved too dangerous to eat is Soy and soy-based products. Deadly and dangerous stuff.

Farmers love selling the stuff because it is easy to grow and will grow anywhere. Soy cannot be eaten raw, it needs extensive processing before it can be eaten. Even then, it is high in isoflavones (like female hormones) and is seriously damaging to the thyroid.

Feeding a child soy-based baby formula is like giving them 5 birth control pills per day. Male babies fed soy milk may never develop an interest in girls.
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SWING, you are moron just trying to seem smart over the internet. think before you speak. most perscription medicines and many elements have a latin or ancient greek name. just because they are dead languages does not mean shit... except to you i guess
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Reminds me of biology class where we got to see a package of 1800's "diet pills" that were actually live tapeworm eggs. Thats one way to drop some pounds quickly and easily!
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EU Copyright, there is no response more appropriate to your post other than, wow, you are a complete moron. Ever heard of edamame? It's been eaten for millennia by Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc. Yah, it's raw soy... idiot.
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"Wow"... yeah, sorry, but your response is as rude as it is wrong. The thing about the Asian soy diet is that it had a couple millenia of development (consider the fermented forms, which render the proteins more digestible), it was never a "health food" so much as a "poor person's temporary protein supplement" (soy burgers are a Western mistake)... And that sexist tradition where the men in the family got the best food (ie. real meat)? Sure helped limit the impact of the female hormones on them, don't you think?
Still, though, a look at Asian society today will show some of the long-term damage caused by those hormones (I can't tell you how many male students I have who look--and act--like girls, for example).
Like EU Copyright said, Western farmers and food producers love soy--but the soy they sell is NOT what we eat over here (in Asia).
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