Leeds ,

Object of the week- Exploding sweets

A jar of curative sweets may not seem like they could present an imminent hazard to your health.

But the pastilles once contained in this jar were packed with the explosive potential to give you much worse than a sore throat.

The jar, currently on display at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum, was the receptacle for potassium chlorate pastilles, commonly used to soothe sore throats in the 1880s.

Although marketed as beneficial, the chemical compound they contained could spontaneously combust in the owner’s pocket.

Potassium chlorate reacts vigorously and can burst into flames when combined with virtually any combustible material, including ordinary dust and the kind of lint found in pockets.

The jar is on display as part of the Danger Zone exhibition exploring the hazards that were hiding in plain sight in commonplace objects through the ages.

The bottle is displayed alongside a dapper-looking top hat containing poisonous mercury, a material commonly used when the headgear was made in around 1840.

Also on display is a delicate glass centrepiece containing radioactive uranium, added to some glassware in the 19th century to give it a green tinge and help it stand out in the early evening light.

Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history, said: “Although today we live in an age where most products are rigorously tested before they can be sold and workplaces are governed by strict health and safety legislation, danger is very much a constantly evolving concept and we are still identifying new risks and health hazards all the time.

“Every new danger we are able to spot helps inform our knowledge of the world around us so in their own small way, each of the items we have on display here has contributed to making our lives safer.”

Danger Zone runs at Abbey House Museum until December 31. For more details including admission prices, opening hours and the programme of talks, please visit: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/abbeyhouse/exhibitions/danger-zone