Energy drinks are all the rage, coming in just behind multivitamins as the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S., particularly among teens and young adults. Energy drinks are promoted to increase alertness and enhance physical and mental performance. The major active ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine, with a 24 ounce drink containing as much caffeine as four or five cups of coffee. Energy drinks are not as new as we think — they have been around for at least a century. There was a time when energy drinks contained radioactive energy instead of caffeine.

Radium is a radioactive metal that was used as luminous paint for watch and instrument dials, but because it is so dangerous, it is no longer used for that purpose. Radium was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. It was named for the Latin word radius or ray because the radioactivity it releases is about three million times greater than that released by uranium. Like other radioactive substances, radium releases radioactive energy as it decays from its most stable form into lead.

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