full transcript

From the Ted Talk by J. V. Maranto: History's deadliest colors

Unscramble the Blue Letters

In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. Claimed to have restorative properties, radium was added to toothpaste, medicine, water, and food. A glowing, luminous green, it was also used in beauty products and jewelry. It wasn't until the mid-20th ctrneuy we realized that radium's harmful effects as a radioactive element outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn't the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but ternud out to be deadly. That lamentable distinction icedunls a trio of colors and pigments that we've long used to decorate ourselves and the things we make: white, green, and orange. Our story begins with white. As far back as the 4th century BCE, the Ancient geerks teaterd lead to make the brilliant white pigment we know today. The problem? In humans, lead is directly absorbed into the body and distributed to the blood, soft tissues, and mineralized tissues. Once in the nervous system, lead mimics and disrupts the normal functions of calcium, causing damages ranging from learning disabilities to high blood pressure. Yet the practice of using this toxic pigment continued across time and cultures. Lead white was the only practical chicoe for white oil or tempera panit until the 19th century. To make their paint, artists would ginrd a block of lead into powder, exposing highly toxic dust particles. The pigment's liberal use resulted in what was known as painter's coilc, or what we'd now call lead poisoning. Artists who wkeord with lead complained of palseys, melancholy, cgohinug, enlarged retinas, and even blindness. But lead white's density, opacity, and warm tone were irresistible to artists like Vermeer, and later, the ismentissopris. Its glow couldn't be matched, and the pmeignt cnnitoued to be widely used until it was banned in the 1970s. As bad as all that sounds, white's dreoganus eecffts pale in comparison to another, more wide-spread pigment, green. Two synthetic greens called Scheele's geern and Paris Green were first introduced in the 18th century. They were far more vibrant and flashy than the relatively dull greens made from natural pigments, so they qlcukiy became pluoapr choices for paint as well as dye for textiles, wallpaper, soaps, cake decorations, toys, candy, and clothing. These green pigments were made from a compound called ciurpc hydrogen arsenic. In humans, exposure to arsenic can damage the way cells communicate and function. And high levels of arsenic have been directly lkeind to cancer and heart deaisse. As a result, 18th century fabric factory workers were often poneoisd, and women in green dresses rlpoeetdry collapsed from exposure to arsenic on their skin. Bed bugs were rumored not to live in green rooms, and it's even been speculated that Napoleon died from slow arsenic poisoning from senpielg in his green wallpapered bedroom. The intense toxicity of these green sayted under wraps until the arsenic recipe was published in 1822. And a century later, it was repurposed as an itecsinicde. Synthetic green was probably the most dangerous color in waesprdeid use, but at least it didn't share radium's property of raiatdcitiovy. Another color did, though - orange. Before World War II, it was common for mfuetrunraacs of ceramic drnawinree to use uranium oxide in coroled glazes. The compound produced brilliant reds and oragnes, which were appealing attributes, if not for the radiation they emitted. Of course, radiation was something we were unaware of until the late 1800s, let alone the associated cancer risks, which we discovered much later. During wrlod War II, the U.S. government confiscated all unriaum for use in bomb development. However, the atomic energy comissiomn relaxed these restrictions in 1959, and depleted uranium reeurntd to ceramics and glass foarcty floors. ograne dishes made during the next decade may still have some hazardous qualities on their surfaces to this day. Most notably, vintage fiestaware reads pstoivie for radioactivity. And while the leelvs are low enough that they don't officially pose a health risk if they're on a sehlf, the U.S. EPA wanrs against eating food off of them. Though we still occasionally run into issues with synthetic food dyes, our scientific understanding has hepeld us prune hazardous coolrs out of our lievs.

Open Cloze

In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. Claimed to have restorative properties, radium was added to toothpaste, medicine, water, and food. A glowing, luminous green, it was also used in beauty products and jewelry. It wasn't until the mid-20th _______ we realized that radium's harmful effects as a radioactive element outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn't the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but ______ out to be deadly. That lamentable distinction ________ a trio of colors and pigments that we've long used to decorate ourselves and the things we make: white, green, and orange. Our story begins with white. As far back as the 4th century BCE, the Ancient ______ _______ lead to make the brilliant white pigment we know today. The problem? In humans, lead is directly absorbed into the body and distributed to the blood, soft tissues, and mineralized tissues. Once in the nervous system, lead mimics and disrupts the normal functions of calcium, causing damages ranging from learning disabilities to high blood pressure. Yet the practice of using this toxic pigment continued across time and cultures. Lead white was the only practical ______ for white oil or tempera _____ until the 19th century. To make their paint, artists would _____ a block of lead into powder, exposing highly toxic dust particles. The pigment's liberal use resulted in what was known as painter's _____, or what we'd now call lead poisoning. Artists who ______ with lead complained of palseys, melancholy, ________, enlarged retinas, and even blindness. But lead white's density, opacity, and warm tone were irresistible to artists like Vermeer, and later, the ______________. Its glow couldn't be matched, and the _______ _________ to be widely used until it was banned in the 1970s. As bad as all that sounds, white's _________ _______ pale in comparison to another, more wide-spread pigment, green. Two synthetic greens called Scheele's _____ and Paris Green were first introduced in the 18th century. They were far more vibrant and flashy than the relatively dull greens made from natural pigments, so they _______ became _______ choices for paint as well as dye for textiles, wallpaper, soaps, cake decorations, toys, candy, and clothing. These green pigments were made from a compound called ______ hydrogen arsenic. In humans, exposure to arsenic can damage the way cells communicate and function. And high levels of arsenic have been directly ______ to cancer and heart _______. As a result, 18th century fabric factory workers were often ________, and women in green dresses __________ collapsed from exposure to arsenic on their skin. Bed bugs were rumored not to live in green rooms, and it's even been speculated that Napoleon died from slow arsenic poisoning from ________ in his green wallpapered bedroom. The intense toxicity of these green ______ under wraps until the arsenic recipe was published in 1822. And a century later, it was repurposed as an ___________. Synthetic green was probably the most dangerous color in __________ use, but at least it didn't share radium's property of _____________. Another color did, though - orange. Before World War II, it was common for _____________ of ceramic __________ to use uranium oxide in _______ glazes. The compound produced brilliant reds and _______, which were appealing attributes, if not for the radiation they emitted. Of course, radiation was something we were unaware of until the late 1800s, let alone the associated cancer risks, which we discovered much later. During _____ War II, the U.S. government confiscated all _______ for use in bomb development. However, the atomic energy __________ relaxed these restrictions in 1959, and depleted uranium ________ to ceramics and glass _______ floors. ______ dishes made during the next decade may still have some hazardous qualities on their surfaces to this day. Most notably, vintage fiestaware reads ________ for radioactivity. And while the ______ are low enough that they don't officially pose a health risk if they're on a _____, the U.S. EPA _____ against eating food off of them. Though we still occasionally run into issues with synthetic food dyes, our scientific understanding has ______ us prune hazardous ______ out of our _____.

Solution

  1. colors
  2. cupric
  3. uranium
  4. commission
  5. coughing
  6. quickly
  7. warns
  8. radioactivity
  9. helped
  10. dangerous
  11. factory
  12. choice
  13. grind
  14. world
  15. manufacturers
  16. green
  17. paint
  18. century
  19. pigment
  20. insecticide
  21. lives
  22. impressionists
  23. popular
  24. returned
  25. oranges
  26. widespread
  27. continued
  28. levels
  29. greeks
  30. reportedly
  31. orange
  32. positive
  33. colored
  34. effects
  35. colic
  36. includes
  37. disease
  38. worked
  39. dinnerware
  40. turned
  41. sleeping
  42. linked
  43. poisoned
  44. stayed
  45. treated
  46. shelf

Original Text

In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. Claimed to have restorative properties, radium was added to toothpaste, medicine, water, and food. A glowing, luminous green, it was also used in beauty products and jewelry. It wasn't until the mid-20th century we realized that radium's harmful effects as a radioactive element outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn't the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but turned out to be deadly. That lamentable distinction includes a trio of colors and pigments that we've long used to decorate ourselves and the things we make: white, green, and orange. Our story begins with white. As far back as the 4th century BCE, the Ancient Greeks treated lead to make the brilliant white pigment we know today. The problem? In humans, lead is directly absorbed into the body and distributed to the blood, soft tissues, and mineralized tissues. Once in the nervous system, lead mimics and disrupts the normal functions of calcium, causing damages ranging from learning disabilities to high blood pressure. Yet the practice of using this toxic pigment continued across time and cultures. Lead white was the only practical choice for white oil or tempera paint until the 19th century. To make their paint, artists would grind a block of lead into powder, exposing highly toxic dust particles. The pigment's liberal use resulted in what was known as painter's colic, or what we'd now call lead poisoning. Artists who worked with lead complained of palseys, melancholy, coughing, enlarged retinas, and even blindness. But lead white's density, opacity, and warm tone were irresistible to artists like Vermeer, and later, the Impressionists. Its glow couldn't be matched, and the pigment continued to be widely used until it was banned in the 1970s. As bad as all that sounds, white's dangerous effects pale in comparison to another, more wide-spread pigment, green. Two synthetic greens called Scheele's Green and Paris Green were first introduced in the 18th century. They were far more vibrant and flashy than the relatively dull greens made from natural pigments, so they quickly became popular choices for paint as well as dye for textiles, wallpaper, soaps, cake decorations, toys, candy, and clothing. These green pigments were made from a compound called cupric hydrogen arsenic. In humans, exposure to arsenic can damage the way cells communicate and function. And high levels of arsenic have been directly linked to cancer and heart disease. As a result, 18th century fabric factory workers were often poisoned, and women in green dresses reportedly collapsed from exposure to arsenic on their skin. Bed bugs were rumored not to live in green rooms, and it's even been speculated that Napoleon died from slow arsenic poisoning from sleeping in his green wallpapered bedroom. The intense toxicity of these green stayed under wraps until the arsenic recipe was published in 1822. And a century later, it was repurposed as an insecticide. Synthetic green was probably the most dangerous color in widespread use, but at least it didn't share radium's property of radioactivity. Another color did, though - orange. Before World War II, it was common for manufacturers of ceramic dinnerware to use uranium oxide in colored glazes. The compound produced brilliant reds and oranges, which were appealing attributes, if not for the radiation they emitted. Of course, radiation was something we were unaware of until the late 1800s, let alone the associated cancer risks, which we discovered much later. During World War II, the U.S. government confiscated all uranium for use in bomb development. However, the atomic energy commission relaxed these restrictions in 1959, and depleted uranium returned to ceramics and glass factory floors. Orange dishes made during the next decade may still have some hazardous qualities on their surfaces to this day. Most notably, vintage fiestaware reads positive for radioactivity. And while the levels are low enough that they don't officially pose a health risk if they're on a shelf, the U.S. EPA warns against eating food off of them. Though we still occasionally run into issues with synthetic food dyes, our scientific understanding has helped us prune hazardous colors out of our lives.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
pigment continued 2
world war 2

Important Words

  1. absorbed
  2. added
  3. ancient
  4. appealing
  5. arsenic
  6. artists
  7. atomic
  8. attributes
  9. bad
  10. banned
  11. bce
  12. beauty
  13. bed
  14. bedroom
  15. begins
  16. benefits
  17. blindness
  18. block
  19. blood
  20. body
  21. bomb
  22. brilliant
  23. bugs
  24. cake
  25. calcium
  26. call
  27. called
  28. cancer
  29. candy
  30. causing
  31. cells
  32. century
  33. ceramic
  34. ceramics
  35. choice
  36. choices
  37. claimed
  38. clothing
  39. colic
  40. collapsed
  41. color
  42. colored
  43. colors
  44. commission
  45. common
  46. communicate
  47. comparison
  48. complained
  49. compound
  50. confiscated
  51. continued
  52. coughing
  53. cultures
  54. cupric
  55. curie
  56. damage
  57. damages
  58. dangerous
  59. day
  60. deadly
  61. decade
  62. decorate
  63. decorations
  64. density
  65. depleted
  66. development
  67. died
  68. dinnerware
  69. disabilities
  70. discovered
  71. disease
  72. dishes
  73. disrupts
  74. distinction
  75. distributed
  76. dresses
  77. dull
  78. dust
  79. dye
  80. dyes
  81. eating
  82. effects
  83. element
  84. emitted
  85. energy
  86. enlarged
  87. epa
  88. exposing
  89. exposure
  90. fabric
  91. factory
  92. fiestaware
  93. flashy
  94. floors
  95. food
  96. function
  97. functions
  98. glass
  99. glazes
  100. glow
  101. glowing
  102. government
  103. greeks
  104. green
  105. greens
  106. grind
  107. harmful
  108. harmless
  109. hazardous
  110. health
  111. heart
  112. helped
  113. high
  114. highly
  115. historically
  116. humans
  117. hydrogen
  118. ii
  119. impressionists
  120. includes
  121. insecticide
  122. intense
  123. introduced
  124. irresistible
  125. issues
  126. jewelry
  127. lamentable
  128. late
  129. lead
  130. learning
  131. levels
  132. liberal
  133. linked
  134. live
  135. lives
  136. long
  137. luminous
  138. manufacturers
  139. marie
  140. matched
  141. medicine
  142. melancholy
  143. mimics
  144. mineralized
  145. napoleon
  146. natural
  147. nervous
  148. normal
  149. notably
  150. occasionally
  151. officially
  152. oil
  153. opacity
  154. orange
  155. oranges
  156. outweighed
  157. oxide
  158. paint
  159. pale
  160. palseys
  161. paris
  162. particles
  163. pierre
  164. pigment
  165. pigments
  166. poisoned
  167. poisoning
  168. popular
  169. pose
  170. positive
  171. powder
  172. practical
  173. practice
  174. pressure
  175. problem
  176. produced
  177. products
  178. properties
  179. property
  180. prune
  181. published
  182. qualities
  183. quickly
  184. radiation
  185. radioactive
  186. radioactivity
  187. radium
  188. ranging
  189. reads
  190. realized
  191. recipe
  192. reds
  193. relaxed
  194. reportedly
  195. repurposed
  196. restorative
  197. restrictions
  198. result
  199. resulted
  200. retinas
  201. returned
  202. risk
  203. risks
  204. rooms
  205. rumored
  206. run
  207. scientific
  208. share
  209. shelf
  210. skin
  211. sleeping
  212. slow
  213. soaps
  214. soft
  215. sounds
  216. speculated
  217. stayed
  218. story
  219. surfaces
  220. synthetic
  221. system
  222. tempera
  223. textiles
  224. time
  225. tissues
  226. today
  227. tone
  228. toothpaste
  229. toxic
  230. toxicity
  231. toys
  232. treated
  233. trio
  234. turned
  235. unaware
  236. understanding
  237. uranium
  238. vermeer
  239. vibrant
  240. vintage
  241. visual
  242. wallpaper
  243. wallpapered
  244. war
  245. warm
  246. warns
  247. water
  248. white
  249. widely
  250. widespread
  251. women
  252. worked
  253. workers
  254. world
  255. wraps