This Is the Unhealthiest Thing Ever Approved By the American Medical Association
I’m not one of these wackos or Christian Scientists who thinks doctors are out to get us, or to inject a microchip in us so they can track us going from our bed to our office chair and back. Should some part of my body be aching or oozing, I’m headed directly for the nearest medical professional to get that thing checked out (or at least I would, if we had a functioning health-care system.) I don’t want to be one of those people who ignores a rash and then it eventually turns into a face, whispering to me in dead languages.
Do they turn out to be wrong sometimes? Sure, as more information emerges, it turns out that mistakes have been made on occasion. I’m sure if doctors had a time machine, they would have loved to go back and save President James Garfield by asking his doctors to stop piping beef bouillon up his anus. Generally, though, public health benefits from listening to doctors, and one of the prime purveyors of medical advice to the public is the American Medical Association. Whether it’s supplements or getting a ballpark on how much sushi you can safely eat, they’re probably the ones answering.
But given that they were founded in 1847, again, there’s likely a couple of thumbs-up that they’d like back. One in particular was something touted as a bit of a cure-all in the early 20th century despite being a powerful carcinogen, and no, it’s not smoking. If I had to Family Feud it, I’d guess cigarettes were probably one of the top guesses by people clicking into this article. While the tales of “physician-approved” cigarettes are true, and the AMA might not have been as staunch an opponent as they should have been, their silence was far from approval, raising concerns of negative effects of smoke on children as far back as 1883.
Thirty-one years later, however, there was a hot new product that the AMA gave official approval to in 1914 for “internal oral and intravenous therapeutic applications.” That product was radium. Yes, that radium. The radioactive radium. In the first decades of the 1900s, people were pretty jazzed about this cool new glowing chemical element, and used it as liberally as a Maryland native might Old Bay Seasoning. Facial creams, hair tonics, even an energy drink named Radithor that was just radium in water, people were packing what we now know to be highly radioactive substances into and onto themselves with reckless abandon.
So how’d they figure out it was not, in fact, a great beverage?
Somebody’s jaw fell off. Specifically, a man named Eben Byers, who was Radithor’s number-one-consumer, died a horrific death from his highly inadvisable radium intake, and it left his bones so radioactive that he had to be buried in a lead coffin. Not your ideal brand ambassador.
After Byers’ death in 1932, and likely as a direct result, the American Medical Association withdrew their approval of radium. I bet if they look back, they probably think, “It would have been better to go with cigarettes.”