7 Totally Safe Things That Used To Be Thought Of As “Dangerous”

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These days, we all have a pretty good idea of what’s safe and what’s not.

Paint used in the home can’t contain lead.

Medicine bottles come with a cap that only adults can open.

Homeowners should try to stay away from asbestos as much as possible.

At one point, things that we protect ourselves against today were considered to be safe. Have you ever thought about all of the things we love that people once warned against? You’d be surprised to find there are a few of them that some people still believe.

Competitive Sports (For The Ladies)

They weren’t even worried about the girls getting hurt, either. Keeping them away from rough sports was all about staying desirable and ladylike so that she’d one day have a shot at landing a husband. In a 1922 article published in The Washington Post, a college headmistress claimed, “Too many athletics threaten to rob girls of their chief appeal to men. The modern girl is trying to do too much at football. Her charm, balance and poise will all be lost, and her dignity lowered if she endeavors to emulate man too closely.” Barf.

Female field hockey player
Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

Additionally, one woman claimed in a 1931 article in the Chicago Tribune that battling it out for a medal or trophy wasn’t even worth it for girls. She said that a girl tiring herself out with high school sports destined her for a life of unhappiness and exhaustion, but this somehow doesn’t phase boys at all. Women and girls playing sports began to be accepted more after women were allowed to enter the military and during the Civil Rights movement.

Dancing (Again, for the Ladies)

Again, it was mainly considered dangerous just for girls, though. In a 1926 article, The Washington Post reported that a teenaged girl had died while dancing, which her doctor said was due to “extreme physical exercise” and declared the activity “particularly dangerous for young women.”

The greatest danger, however, was that dancing could reveal parts of a girl’s body that should remain unseen—at least according to a Dr. Waldron. “The high kick, displaying bare legs and arms of our little girls in the presence of even small boys, cannot honestly be said to tend to beget in those children the highest sense of modesty, purity so greatly prized in our women,” he said in a 1925 article published in The Pittsburgh Courier.

Those evil high kicks! While most people today would agree that dancing isn’t dangerous as a whole, there are still towns that have banned it entirely, a la Footloose. However, it has more to do with promiscuity than physical harm.

The Color Purple (No, Not the Movie)

We aren’t talking about Oprah. In a 1904 article published in The Religious Telescope (interesting publication name, eh?), the author claimed that certain colors could drive someone crazy when they looked at them for long enough, and that purple was deemed “the most dangerous color there is.”

“If purple walls and a red tinted window surrounded you for a month with no color but purple around you, by the end of that time you would be a mad-man,” the article reads. “No matter how strong your brain might be it would not stand the strain, and it is doubtful if you would ever recover your reason.”

Outside of house and window shutters painted purple
Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

Additional claims were made about other colors, all of which were pretty outrageous. For instance, red could eventually drive someone to violence, while blue was determined to be both exciting and nerve-racking. Yellow could send you into long lasting fits of hysteria, and white would actually destroy your eyesight entirely.

However, Kate Smith, a color expert, says that none of it’s true—how shocking! However, she notes that it’s especially untrue when it comes to purple—it’s not only a color that’s calming and uplifting but it’s also said to be inspiring.

Chewing Gum

We’ve all been told that swallowed gum will stay in our systems for seven years, and it’s a thought that terrified us as children. What would happen during that time? It’d have to be bad if adults kept warning us not to do it, right? As it turns out, it’s all a lie.

It’s true that gum doesn’t get broken down in our stomachs like other food does, but that in no way means it just sits in there forever like a rock until it somehow gets pushed out.

While it’s not ideal to swallow gum all the time, rest assured that it’ll go through your digestive system just like anything else you eat would.

Public Restrooms

We’re not trying to say that public toilets are the cleanest things on Earth but if you’re using them as they’re designed to be used, there really aren’t any health risks involved. However, some people continue to hover as they use the restroom for fear of contracting an STD, skin infections, or even just sitting on something unsavory.

Restroom sign
ranck V. on Unsplash

When it comes to that first part, science and health reporter from The New York Times, Donald G. McNeil, Jr., says the myth of STDs and toilet seats likely stemmed from a cheating partner at some point in time. “When confronted by an angry partner wanting to know how it is that he or she suddenly has symptoms of syphilis, gonorrhea, pubic lice or any other unpleasantry, it is much easier to answer, ‘I have no idea, dear — I must have gotten it from a toilet seat,’ than it is to tell the truth,” he said. In the majority of cases, people get these infections from other people, not objects.

Oh, and if you’re worried about diseases from things like urine, feces, or vomit on a toilet seat? We’ve got good news for you—you can see these things before you sit on them.


The humble tomato was once dubbed as a “poison apple” after a group of aristocrats in Europe became sick after eating them. However, we now know that the poison wasn’t in the tomato itself—it was coming from the plate it was served on. The acidity from the tomatoes helped leach toxic metals like lead out of the pewter plates that were common back then, which eventually gave the person eating it lead poisoning.

Sometime in the 1830s, the tomato’s reputation got even worse when a Green Tomato Worm epidemic spread across tomato patches in New York City. Many people thought the worms were poisonous; even Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed they were “an object of much terror, it being currently regarded as poisonous and imparting a poisonous quality to the fruit if it should chance to crawl upon it.”

Eventually, though, everyone somehow realized there was nothing to worry about and, once the rumors died down, it was like tomato worms never existed

Letter Writing

It wasn’t necessarily the act of letter writing that was considered dangerous in the late 1800s—it was what people (women specifically, of course) were writing them for. In her 1898 book Maids, Wives, and Bachelors, British novelist and teacher Amelia E. Barr wrote an entire chapter on the matter. She claimed, “Young women are proverbially fond of playing with edged tools … And of all such dangerous playthings a habit of promiscuous, careless letter-writing is the worst.”

Blank card and envelope
Kate Macate on Unsplash

Essentially, she was saying that woman used letters as a way to talk to young men inappropriately. She even said she believed that postage prices were lowered solely because of girls who impulsively wrote mushy letters to men. If only we could introduce Ms. Barr to the internet…

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