4Radioactive Material Was Added to All Sorts of Consumer Goods
Once everyone realized the sheer power of atomic energy, companies went a little nuts trying to shoehorn it into everyday life, the logic being that every activity could be made better and more efficient by the presence of spine-fusing radiation. For example, one of them came up with the idea to irradiate golf balls with cobalt-60, so that if you lost one in the rough somewhere, it could be located. With a Geiger counter.
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the greatest idea of all time.
Numerous advertisements were run for radioactive golf balls, with some even claiming that they would travel farther than regular balls (you may notice that by all accounts, this does not make sense). While the golf balls were not dangerous to humans unless they had constant exposure to them (like if you carried them around in your pocket all day on the golf course, but luckily nobody does that), the same can't be said for the atomic pacemaker.
Yep. Amazingly, doctors during the 1970s thought placing mini plutonium batteries in people's chests was a good thing. Gamma rays escaping the pacemaker would slightly irradiate the patient every year, and the U.S. government deems them such a hazard that when any person with a plutonium pacemaker dies, it has to be immediately removed and taken straight to the Los Alamos nuclear facility for destruction.
And then the body shot in the head as a preemptive measure.
And then there was nuclear makeup.
"Wow, those tumors really set off your cheekbones!"
During the early 20th century, the London based company Radior Co. specialized in radium-enriched cosmetics such as talcum powder, face powder, vanishing cream, soap and numerous other things women applied to their faces every day. After this company unsettlingly just disappeared around the 1920s, France picked up the nuclear baton with Tho-Radia products, which included all the powders and soaps from before while tossing lipstick into the mix.
Most people believed low radioactivity could kill germs, and while this is technically true, it is ignoring the larger truth that radioactivity kills everything. After taking an embarrassingly long time to figure this out, production was halted on radium-instilled beauty creams.
Fellas, there's a reason she's glowing, and it's not luminous beauty.
Understandably, the focus switched from painting your face with radioactive isotopes to painting your house with them, because houses don't get cancer. For example, after the Fukishima disaster in 2011, scientists combing Tokyo for radioactivity found alarming levels coming from an old woman's house. Inside, they found the source to be some old luminescent paint bottles in her basement, which were giving her the radioactive equivalent of a CAT scan every hour of every day. The paint was quickly disposed of, but because it was regularly produced, and because this is Japan, there may be tons more of it out there.
3The U.S. Government Shot at Toxic Waste Barrels to Make Them Go Away
As discussed above, sometimes we simply can't figure out what to do with nuclear waste, at least not anything that could be in any way considered "wise" or "safe." In the 1950s, the U.S. Navy decided to quit pussyfooting around with all of that nonsense and dumped barrels of waste off the coast of San Francisco. The problem is that sometimes the barrels tend to want to float, which is bad news, so they shot cannons at them until they sank.
"They've got a big target symbol on them, right?"
The waste included scores of dead animals experimented on by nuclear research facilities and 55-gallon drums of radioactive mystery. Representatives from the Atomic Energy Commission would occasionally drop by to review the amount of radioactivity on the ships to determine whether or not they should be cleaned before taking on another toxic load, because apparently that makes a fucking difference. Today the government estimates about 48,000 barrels of waste were dumped in the bay, but gallantly refuses to provide any kind of documentation as to what, specifically, that waste might be.
"We shot up all the paperwork, too. Our pens were out of ink."
Similarly, at a disposal site in Idaho, buried nuclear waste containers would sometimes be exhumed by flooding, bobbing to the surface and challenging the long-held national belief that when you bury things or toss them into the sea, they cease to exist. Naturally, the government's response to the newly unearthed sludge was to break out the firearms and shoot at it until it sank again.
"Just take out everything above sea level."
Then they realized the water in the area was now contaminated ("But how, damn it?"), so the topic of removing the waste altogether is currently being fiercely debated to the tune of millions of dollars in litigation.