10 Dangerous Fashion Trends


Modern fashion trends can be… weird. I mean, skinny jeans can get a little uncomfortable,
yes. And maybe you have a friend who spends more
time waxing his mustache and trimming his beard than he does actually bathing himself. But your fashion choices probably won’t
kill, burn, or poison you. However, people haven’t always been so lucky. Historically, some pretty dangerous clothing,
cosmetics, and accessories have come in vogue, endangering their wearers and makers alike. It turns out there are just some things that
you really don’t want to put on or in your body… even if everyone else is doing it. [INTRO] Let’s start in the 1700s, when skirts were
huge, cool guys wore wigs, and the hottest color in Europe was green. Specifically, two special pigments known as
Scheele’s Green and Emerald Green. In 1775, Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele
developed copper arsenate, an intense, yellow-green pigment that was more brilliant and longer-lasting
than any other green dye. It was also a lot more toxic because it was
made with arsenic. German scientists soon improved on Scheele’s
recipe by inventing an even more vivid green dye — copper acetoarsenite, commonly known
as Emerald Green or Paris Green. And society loved it. They used it to decorate
everything from fake plants to ball gowns. For fashionistas, the danger emerged when
they’d sweat through their green gloves, stockings, or socks, and transfer the toxins
to their skin. This caused chemical burns and open sores
that absorbed even more of the poison. A poisonous dust would also flake off of dyed
objects, especially wallpapers or twirling dresses as people danced at balls. If you breathed in enough arsenic, the poisoning
could cause vomiting, ulcers, nerve damage, and eventually even death. But arsenic pigments weren’t the only harmful
ones. Some of the first synthetic dyes for clothes and shoes could cause some pretty
nasty health problems all on their own. Aniline is a toxic organic compound that was
first isolated from the indigo plant in the 1820s. When ingested, it interferes with blood cells’
ability to carry oxygen. But in 1856, a chemistry student named William
Henry Perkin was trying to use aniline to create an antimalarial drug, when he accidentally
created mauveine, a bright purple dye. And soon, aniline dyes were all the rage.
Their vibrant reds and deep blacks made natural dyes look muted by comparison. But I bet you can guess what happened next. People who wore socks, gloves, and shirts
colored with aniline, or shoes that had been shined with an aniline-based polish, often
suffered inflammatory skin reactions or headaches and dizziness… because the dye was poisoning
their blood. Our next dangerous trend is more like a single
horrible incident. The culprit in this case was zinc chloride,
which wasn’t used to dye fabrics, but it was used in a coating that goes on wool to
protect the fabric. The compound had, and still has, lots of applications,
because it’s both highly corrosive and highly soluble in water. But, one day, in December 1898, over 60 men
were hired to clean the streets of Birmingham, England after a snowstorm. And they were all given new wool overcoats
to keep them warm. Nice, right? Well, most of the men ended up in the hospital,
with large patches of destroyed skin around their knees and wrists. It turns out, their coats had been treated
with an excess of zinc chloride, and when they got wet from the snow, the toxin dripped
onto their skin and caused serious chemical burns. Now, we’ve talked before about how asbestos
has been misused over the ages. But before anyone knew that asbestos equals
dying, it was often worn for protection. It can form lightweight fibers that can be
woven into fabric, and it’s famously flame retardant. So, from ancient Rome until at least the early
1980s, lots of dangerous, fire-related jobs involved wearing uniforms with some amount
of asbestos in them. This was especially true for firefighters. But, asbestos fibers are incredibly dangerous
for human health. Even when they’re woven into clothing, asbestos
fibers can break off into tiny pieces that can enter the lungs. When too many fibers build up in your lungs,
they cause irritation, inflammation, and scarring, hindering the ability to absorb oxygen and
making it hard to breathe. Asbestos is also a carcinogen. People who
are exposed to large amounts of it tend to develop an otherwise-rare lung cancer called
mesothelioma. So even though we were using it as protection,
asbestos was doing tremendous damage to our bodies all along. Another fabric that proved to be more harmful
than we expected is viscose rayon. In the late 1800s, chemists were looking for
an artificial substitute for natural silk, which, as sexy as it is, is incredibly time-consuming
and expensive to produce. In 1905, a British company began making a
new material: They started with a sticky solution of dissolved wood pulp, which contains lots
of the natural plant polymer cellulose. They aged it, dumped in some chemicals, and
eventually extracted fibers that looked and felt a lot like silk. We know those fibers today as rayon. One of the key steps in making viscose rayon
involved a compound called carbon disulfide, which is — as you might guess– highly toxic! The fabric was safe to wear, but factory workers
suffered. Prolonged exposure to carbon disulfide can
damage the cardiovascular and nervous systems. This was linked to behavioral and health problems
among workers ranging from bouts of mania to strokes. But even with these hazards, the popularity
of artificial silk kept booming, well into the 1900s. So you might know the Mad Hatter from Lewis
Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland — kind of crazy, drinks a lot of tea? Turns out, he
might have some basis in reality. The phrase “mad as a hatter” was actually
used to describe industrial hat-makers in the mid-1800s, who were poisoned by mercury
just by doing their jobs. Most hats were felted, or made from the fur
of small animals. And to make felt, hatters used a process called
“carroting,” where they washed the pelts in an orange solution containing mercury nitrate
to separate the fur from the skin and shrink it into a thin mat. But the price they paid for dapper hats was
mercury poisoning, which drastically harmed hatters’ central nervous systems. Mercurial disease, or Mad Hatter Disease,
causes extreme emotional states plus physical effects, like tremors and difficulty walking,
speaking, and writing. Since these hats didn’t poison the general
public, the occupational hazards of being a hatter persisted. It took half a century or longer for countries
to start banning the use of mercury in the felt hat industry. But what about cosmetics? One fashion trend
that emerged in the 1500s was an obsession with blindingly white skin. In 16th and 17th-century England, women painted
their faces with a whitening paste called Venetian ceruse. The pigment was made by mixing metallic lead
with acetic acid — also known as vinegar — in the presence of carbon dioxide to make
lead carbonate, a powdery white lead. This gave the illusion of a snow-white face,
but over time, it would eat away at people’s skin and caused scarring, headaches, nausea,
muscle damage, baldness, and eventually early death. In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie famously discovered
radium, in the form of radium chloride, by extracting it from the radioactive mineral
called uraninite, or pitchblende. After a couple decades of work, in 1910, they
were able to isolate radium as a pure metal. And this discovery not only thrilled scientific
researchers, but it also caused a wave of “science-based” consumer goods to sweep
the world. We are talking… radium makeup! For example, the London-based Radior in 1917
used radium in products like face creams, soaps, powders, and blush. In the 1930s, ladies in Paris could wear Tho-Radia
brand cosmetics, made from both thorium chloride and radium bromide — apparently, the more
radioactive elements, the better. Thankfully, most of these products contained
such low amounts of radium that they were pretty much harmless — although it’s possible
that customers suffered health effects later in life. Instead, the most serious poisoning cases
were in the factories where radium products were made. Especially in the “Radium Girls,” a group
of about 4,000 factory workers in the United States who painted watch faces with glowing
paint and were pretty much bathed in radioactive dust every day. By the 1920s, they began to suffer from anemia,
“radium jaw” and bone cancers. Within about 20 years, largely because of
their plight, radium-branded products had all but disappeared from the market. And people weren’t just putting toxins on
their face for the sake of beauty. They also put poison in their eyes to look more attractive. The poison in question here is atropine, a
compound derived from a poisonous plant called Deadly Nightshade, or Atropa belladonna. “Belladonna” means “beautiful lady”
in Italian, and it stems from a dangerous beauty practice. In some ancient cultures, women were said
to put drops of juice from Deadly Nightshade berries in their eyes to dilate, or enlarge,
their pupils for that striking doe-eyed look. Atropine is a smooth muscle relaxant, and
your irises are full of smooth muscles that expand and contract to let in different amounts
of light. By adding atropine to your eye, you’re stopping
your iris from being able to respond to light. Putting lots of atropine in your eyes is a
pretty horrible idea, because constantly dilated eyes can expose your retinas to too much light,
damaging the sensory tissues and affecting your vision. Plus, forcing your eye muscles into unnatural
positions has been found to affect your internal eye pressure and damage your optic nerve,
which could lead to blindness. Today, doctors still use atropine for its
muscle relaxing and anesthetic effects, mainly to dilate your pupils before eye exams. They just use it in very small, controlled
doses. Finally, let’s go out with a bang with combustible
fashion accessories! Celluloid was the most successful early, synthetic
plastic. It was cheap, light, strong, easily molded
to whatever shape you wanted. So in the late 1800s and early 1900s, celluloid
accessories were everywhere — buttons, jewelry, eyeglass frames, toys, and little hair combs
that ladies would wear. But, what people didn’t realize was that
celluloid was manufactured using a compound called cellulose nitrate. Now, cellulose is that naturally-occurring
plant polymer I mentioned earlier. And when you expose cellulose, like in wood
pulp or cotton, to nitric acid, it forms cellulose nitrate — which is highly flammable. So flammable that it’s also called guncotton
because of its tendency to … explode. So with the rise in popularity of celluloid
accessories came a wave of newspaper articles about combs combusting in people’s hair,
setting their whole body on fire, just from the heat from a curling iron or a nearby electric
lamp. There were even reports of entire stores burning
down because they stored their celluloid stuff too close to windows and mirrors on hot summer
days. So, in comparison, those skinny jeans and
mustache waxes don’t seem so bad now, do they? All told, it’s much safer to commit a fashion
faux-pas than have your skin burned or your hair catch on fire, all because of a trend. Thanks for watching this SciShow List Show,
and thanks especially to all of our patrons on Patreon who make this show possible. If
you want to help us make videos like this, just go to patreon.com/scishow­. And don’t
forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe! When you look at a plant, your first thought
probably is not “That thing’s gonna kill me!” But in some cases, that thing is gonna kill
you. Sure, plants can be pretty or delicious, but they also evolved with all kinds of compounds
inside…

100 comments

  1. Trinitrotoluene a.k.a TNT was Originally Used as a Yellow Dye, Not to Make Bombs. TNT was originally created in 1863, not to be used as an explosive, but rather, was used as a yellow dye

  2. passively listening
    “They used it to dye everything from fake plants to ball gags”
    “Wait what?”
    rewind
    “Fake plants to ball gowns”
    “Oh thats much more understandable “

  3. the minutes after you're given eye opening drops in the hospital are weird, things gradually just get more and more blurry, before you know it, everything feels like a dream haze

  4. Just a friendly reminder that a lot of the ways our articles of clothing are produced actually DO kill, burn, and poison the workers (and also the nearby communities) who make them in factories. 
    This has been your Daily Downer with Jenny Joykill- you supply the joy, I supply the uncomfortable soul-crushing reality.

  5. You forgot to mention, Today, Criminals who wear their pants half way down their butts… try to run from the police…but always, their pants fall down, which makes the criminal unable to run. Good deal, keep showing your butt and we'll keep laughing and throwing criminals in jail.

  6. "It turns out there are some things you don't wanna put on or in your body, even if everyone else is doing it"

    2018: Hahahaha TIDEPODS.

    This is the idiotic world we live in

  7. White skin is more beautiful that black, keep an eye out for a study on the black community where they choose white is more desirable. It’s going to cause a media frenzy, the group involved is still debating on releasing. Look for the truth!

  8. I wonder if that arsenic color was the poison they put in Queen Elizabeth’s dress in the failed assassin attempt that killed a lady in waiting.

  9. As someone with sensitive lungs, pretty much any new piece of clothing could kill me or make me very ill. Most new cloths come with a chemical factory odor, and the ones that don't smell like factory chemicals usually smell like over potent laundry soap perfume, both of which are harmful to our respiratory systems. Being hyper-sensitive to these chemicals sort of makes me like a coal mine canary, i get sick faster than others from exposure to airborne chemicals, so even though I have less exposure time overall, the damage that my body expresses instantly can be a warning of the dangers present for everyone in longer exposures.
    As someone who's throat puffs up like a baseball when exposed to manufacturing chemicals or most laundry soaps I can legitimately say that "You are wrong Sci-Show". Modern fashion may not be as poisonous on a one to one basis with some of the historic fashion trends, but per-capita for the number of people participating in the chemical exposed sector of the current fashion industry makes modern fashion far more toxic than any previous era.

  10. Skinny jeans on men significantly reduce sperm count and drastically reduce testosterone, so not only are they stupid looking but they literally castrate wearers.

  11. How about slick leather soled shoes with that metal v-cleat in the heel that would make taking a step like walking on ice.

  12. Here's another: "black henna" used for temporary tattoos by street artists, which is definitely not henna, but does contain para-phenylenediamine which can give you chemical burns, kidney damage, and in some rare cases, anaphylactic shock. It's technically banned in the US from all skin contact products but you can still find it in "black henna" and hair dyes. My scalp still bears the scars from a PPD reaction ~13 years ago.

  13. ping pong balls are still made of celluloid, just a less flammable version of it. still very flammable tho. try it out for yourself.

  14. Most deadly modern trends: Tanning. Basically increasing your chances of skin cancer every time you do it.

  15. Vaseline Glass is still made which uses uranium.Look it up online, its still for sale as vases and other dinnerware. Its the same with radium that has a bright green glow that a company called Fiesta ware used to paint their dinnerware. Radium and uranium on my plates and bowls doesnt sound like a great idea but it is cool looking and real Vaseline glass is fluorescent under black light.

  16. I would add that time people made jewellery from those nuclear testing sites metal towers that melted down. That was pretty dark.

  17. Now I wonder about 2 things.
    1st: how come they're absolutely ignoring the fashion trend of skin bleaching that's still going on?
    2nd: is guncotton the reason behind all those spontaneous combustion stories???

  18. One vaguely related bit of 'didjaknow' : The "radium girls" were also poisoned when PAINTING the faces of radium-dial watches, because they kept their paint brushes super-pointy….by licking them!

  19. Radium Makeup. Someone page Bethesda – FALLOUT COSMETIC ITEMS SHOULD ALL BE LACED WITH RADIUM AND CAUSE IN-GAME CHARACTER EARLY DEATHS! For science, of course!!

  20. I wonder what people will be saying about us in a hundred years. What kind of unknown toxins do we have in our clothing or food or environment that we don't question because it's normal?

  21. Mesothelioma is rare? I've seen a million commercials about it since I was little. "Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with mesothelioma?"

  22. Those radium girls (who painted glowing watch faces) got radium jaw because they would put the paint brush in their mouth to wet it to maintain the sharp tip. The amount of radium they would end up ingesting would eat away at their jaw, make teeth fall out and cause deformities. I'm not sure where I learned that. Maybe a show about radium.

  23. I thought this would be about 'fashion' trends that were dangerous, as in Veronica Lake and her 'peekaboo banngs' which were emulated by female second world wartime factory workers, which got caught up in the machinery, and resulted in injury, and fatalities. To prevent this occurring, Miss Lake was forced by to change hairstyles by her studio bosses. Maybe you could do a video on this theme. Raymondo

  24. … There was a very popular women's liquid makeup called "Youth Dew", which also contained the bright white of lead oxide. Gradual lead poisoning suppressed the appetite, so women lost weight while also looking fashionably "pale and interesting". When it was finally pulled off the market, remaining shelf stocks sold out within days.

    Arsenic compounds were also added to candle wicks because they brightened / whitened the flame. A palace ballroom filled with these candles, heavier breathing while dancing …

    And when the mysterious blue phosphorescence of Radium became The Latest Thing, women actually peppered their hair with it, so their 'do's would sparkle with teensy blue stars.

    … What price beauty …???

  25. Oh yeh I've probably had atropine in my eyes then! Didn't know what it was called. gota have your retina looked at once in a while. shrugs

  26. High heels are actually terrible for you though. If everything goes well, you can screw up your back, but if you fall badly, congrats, instead of breaking your ankle, you just SHATTERED your ankle. Don;t wear very high heels please!

  27. I’m glad I’m not a complicated person and I’m really glad I do my own thing rather than follow trends coughtidepodscough

  28. Speaking of asbestos I worked in an automotive machine shop from 1968 to 1971 and I often ground 18-wheeler brake shoes to fit the drums. The grinding machine was located in the center of a 10' X 10' room with a single 8' double tube florescent light and no ventilation system. In a matter of a few seconds the asbestos dust became so thick I could barely breathe or see what I was doing. That was 49 years ago and I have smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day since then and my lungs are still in near perfect condition. I think some people are prone to get lung cancer from inhaling asbestos dust and some aren't. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The former owner of that machine shop passed away about 15 years ago so if I were to get lung cancer there's no way I could sue him.

  29. Speaking of asbestos I worked in an automotive machine shop from 1968 to 1971 and I often ground 18-wheeler brake shoes to fit the drums. The grinding machine was located in the center of a 10' X 10' room with a single 8' double tube florescent light and no ventilation system. In a matter of a few seconds the asbestos dust became so thick I could barely breathe or see what I was doing. That was 49 years ago and I have smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day since then and my lungs are still in near perfect condition. I think some people are prone to get lung cancer from inhaling asbestos dust and some aren't. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The former owner of that machine shop passed away about 15 years ago so if I were to get lung cancer there's no way I could sue him.

  30. People in the past were so ignorant of dangerous things – modern people would never do such silly things. A shot of Botox, anyone??

  31. Good content, but you really should hire another editor. The editing is so rushed that it gets very annoying. Please let it breathe a little between sentences, dont glue them together so tightly.

  32. I wonder what future people will say about todays harmful use of chemicals that are in cosmetics and other products we use. I'm honestly surprised that humans have lasted this long.

  33. All fashion trends these days are dangerous when you consider fast fashion which changes every few weeks. Most of these clothes end up in land fill and get shipped to Africa and get burnt if no one buys them. There is also the issue of workers getting paid next to nothing and the fact you can not recycle garment's made from more than one material .

  34. 2050 –

    BREAKING NEWS –cool tv noises

    PEOPLE USE ANTI – MATTER IN MAKEUP TO LOOK RICH AND BE "ONE WITH THE TREND"

    how has humanity survived this long lmao

  35. We have two dangerous skin whitening trends today

    1 actual skin whitening products which cause cancer
    2 being so anti sun you develop anemia

    So that's what they put in my eyes when I had a vision exam…

  36. My mom once had a classmate whose hair was set on fire by a Bunsen burner because of the sheer about of hair spray in her hair

  37. The arsenic pigments were far more dangerous to the workers who were making the fake leaves, dresses, wallpaper, etc. Not that wearing it wasn't dangerous, but if something is dangerous to the end consumer, with their comparatively minimal exposure, it is extremely dangerous to the people who work with it constantly.

  38. How could you not add this to the list or as a bonus fact?? What fact or bonus this bit…. Tape worms and other parasites for woman to achieve that tiny thin figure and hold on to it. Needed to loss a bit of weight in 19-20th century because a waist of 21" was ghastly to any 19-20 cty woman. So to rid their "fatty" self's they would pop on down to pharmacy or traveling man selling cure alls for some parasite, swallow em, watch the weight fall off and when achieved take another cure all potion or pill to kill em and there! Lose weight by having terrifying potential 20+ft worm with all their dozens of other worm babies killed. Then hoping and praying one of the worms didn't get out of belly and travel to your heart, eye or brain!!

  39. 5:51 The sad part is that due to the scarring, they would apply more lead makeup to themselves to cover up the scars, accelerating the process.

  40. Let me guess, lead white and radioactive orange?
    Edit: Huh I got one right, anyways there’s also taxidermied birds, hat pins, foot binding and girdles.

  41. Even crazier about some of these dyes is that they weren't just used in clothing and wallpaper, they were used on toys, dishes and food, too.

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