Color Televisions Were All the Rage in the 1960s (They Were Also Radioactive)

iStock.com/CSA-Printstock
iStock.com/CSA-Printstock

A century ago, it wasn't unusual to have at least one dangerously radioactive object in your home. Radium was used to make a long list of everyday items—including toys, chocolate, watches, and cosmetics—before the risks were understood. By the 1950s and '60s, it was common knowledge that radioactive materials weren't something you wanted to be exposed to on a daily basis, and manufacturers (for the most part) were no longer adding them to their goods on purpose. But radiation did inadvertently show up in one of the hottest products of the age, and it was pumped into thousands of living rooms across America before the mistake was caught.

Testing in 1967 revealed that large-screen models of GE color televisions sets were emitting radiation that exceeded safe levels, according to a recent story by The Atlantic. After further investigation it was clear that the problem wasn't limited to GE: Radiation was detected in color models made by nearly every television company at the time, which meant as many as 112,000 sets were radioactive.

The radiation was thought to be linked to the high voltage required to power early color televisions, and according to health officials, it was about 10 to 100,000 times higher than the acceptable rate. In light of the alarming information, the surgeon general released a statement assuring consumers that the radiation levels likely weren't strong enough to hurt them—but there was a catch. Radiation escaped the television at a crescent-shaped angle that sloped downwards, meaning that people were relatively safe when they watched their sets at least six feet away from the screen. But viewers who preferred laying on the carpet beneath their set, or who put it on a high shelf, may have been placing themselves directly in the path of the radiation leakage.

It's unclear what long-term health effects radioactive color TVs had on their owners—if any—but they definitely left an impact on our collective psyche. Even today, kids are lectured for sitting too close to the television set, and though the reasons parents give vary ("it rots your brain," "it'll hurt your eyesight"), their concern may have roots in the radiation scare of the late 1960s.

In 1968, Congress passed the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act, which enabled the FDA to regulate radiation emissions in electronics. Television manufacturers made color sets safer by installing glass plates to block excess radiation, and radioactive TVs soon disappeared from stores.

The FDA still regulates radiation in electronics today, and as the technology evolved, the chances of getting a harmful X-ray blast from your television set have greatly diminished. That means the hazards of binge watching are mostly limited to eye strain, myopia, and the usual risks that come with sitting still all day.

[h/t The Atlantic]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]