Marie and Pierre Curie first isolated radium on April 20, 1902. Prolonged exposure to radioactivity killed Marie in 1934. (Pierre died in 1906 after being hit by a horse-drawn wagon.)
In the 1920s, radium was mistakenly considered harmless and used liberally in kids’ toys to make them glow in the dark. Everyone started to notice the danger after radiation sickness became common among radium workers.
Spas also grew up around radioactive springs and even abandoned radium mines. Tourists could buy a radium-lined jar that came with a guarantee “to make any water placed herein radioactive within 12 hours” and a prescription to “drink at least eight glasses of water daily.”
Some foods are slightly radioactive from naturally present radium and/ or potassium, including Brazil nuts, white potatoes, carrots, lima beans, red meat, and beer.
The release of radioactivity outside of the Three Mile Island facility was actually minimal. If you lived within 10 miles of the nuclear plant when it partially melted down in 1979, you would have been exposed to only about 8 millirems of radioactivity, the equivalent of one chest X-ray.
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Attack of the Factoids. Weighing in at over 400 pages, it's a fact-a-palooza of obscure information.
Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!