Hidden Killers of the Edwardian Home

Hidden Killers of the Edwardian Home

2014, History  -   7 Comments
Ratings: 8.22/10 from 116 users.

This installation of the BBC's Hidden Killers series catalogs the innovations and discoveries of the Edwardian period (1901-1914) and the resultant dangers that were inadvertently introduced into the homes of that time. Host Suzannah Lipscomb meets with several historical experts to learn more about this experimental phase of history and its impact on modernity.

Described as "an age of firsts," the Edwardian period saw many significant technological advances including the first mass-produced car, the first successful airplane flight, and widespread use of electricity. Unfortunately, Edwardian society had much to learn about the risks of overloading a socket and the poisonous nature of many gases and powders in use at the time. Citing a lack of understanding as the primary factor in many otherwise avoidable injuries and deaths, Lipscomb educates viewers on the past household roles of toxins including asbestos, ammonia, and ether to name a few.

Also noted as an age of "female advance," more women were joining the workforce and therefore utilizing electrical appliances to ease the burden of housework. Items such as early refrigerators, however, suffered a serious design flaw that allowed lethal and flammable gases to leak into the air and the lungs of the average family. Not only did appliances pose certain risks, both male and female laborers exposed their families to poisons by wearing them home on their clothes. Asbestos was being used industrially for the first time, and dust from the factories would stick to uniforms and infect those doing the household laundry.

Aesthetic trends also posed a threat to the public. Make-up found popularity after the "au naturel" trend of the Victorian era, but many cosmetic products contained ingredients with undesirable side effects such as hair loss and corneal damage. Female baldness was common due to either burning it off with curling tools, or killing it with hazardous chemicals meant to dye it. Radium was a popular novelty due to its glow. Items such as irradiated socks, underwear, chocolate, toothpaste and even water were available for public consumption.

Hidden Killers of the Edwardian Home reveals the beginnings of many products still in use to this day, leaving viewers to question what modern technologies and trends we may presently be misusing to our potential detriment.

More great documentaries

7 Comments / User Reviews

  1. P Lynn

    Really has a chilling echo for today, with national leaders in various countries (you know who in particular) removing safety standards for their friends in industry.

  2. Fifimsp

    The part that I found interesting was the battle between the gas and electric company. When I went to Montana I stayed in the home of Williams Andrews Clarke. He made his millions by mining copper for copper wiring in homes. But the interesting thing is the chandelier they showed us was actually rigged up with both electric lights and gas lights and the reason was he was worried electricity wasn't going to last and if it didn't he had a back up plan.

  3. pete

    great !!! enjoyed it very much

  4. Dini Ghost

    still cannot access this, even after signing in...????

  5. Blaice

    Why is this rated so low? It is history on unintentional death traps. How is that not interesting to everyone?!? How many ancestry lines were ended simply because of technological/biological advancements, and the ignorance imbuing the users?

    Fascinating documentary, well done. Narrator is also pleasing on the eyes, so easy and enjoyable watch.

  6. AssHat900

    [electricity] "when it was first invented" ... ahhh, thanks Mr. Scientist?

    1. Fabien L

      lol, heard that too, poor choice of words. Invention of generators, electric grid or domestic electric apparels would have made more sense.