This story is over 5 years old.

deadly colors

This Is the World’s Deadliest Color

A TED-Ed mini-documentary explains the history of poison pigments.
Image via YouTube

Have you ever wondered why you associate poison with the color green? Maybe it's because synthetic green pigments were made with arsenic in the 18th century, a chemical that has since been linked to cancer and heart disease. This is just one of the anecdotes explained in a new TED-Ed video animation about the history of deadly colors. J. V. Maranto, an educator and frequent TED-Ed contributor, gives a short, five minute lecture about the potentially lethal elements tied to age old synthetic pigments. The video was animated by Juan M. Urbina, a Colombian animation producer and director who most recently worked on Netflix's original series Legend Quest. With the help of Urbina's charming illustrations, Maranto explains how toxic chemicals like lead, arsenic, and uranium oxide made their way into mass-produced consumer goods like wallpaper, toys, candy, paint, and ceramic dinnerware.


At the end of the video Maranto says although we still occasionally run into issues with synthetic food dyes, science has helped eliminate most hazardous colors from of our lives. That doesn't mean all pigments are entirely safe these days, though. NanoSystems' Vantablack, the blackest black ever made, can reportedly damage organs after exposure.

Check out more TED-Ed lectures on YouTube.


Meet the Chemist Who Accidentally Created a New Blue Pigment

Anish Kapoor is Banned From Buying the World's Pinkest Paint

Meet The Artist Behind "Blacker-Than-Black", The Darkest Color Ever