It’s a given today that many grocery store items — medicine, vitamins, orange juice — come with a safety seal. “Do not purchase product if safety seal is not present” is something we’ve become accustomed to reading on our products. You have the Tylenol scare to thank for that.
Thirty-four years ago, however, that was not the case. Closed items at stores just came with a top, and maybe a cotton swab if it was medicine. There were no elaborate seals to prevent anyone from tampering with the product. As recently as 1982, it was deemed unnecessary. People just didn’t do that.
But a three-day scare that centered on Tylenol, the No. 1 nonprescription painkiller in the country, changed the lives of Americans forever.
Seven people died over a three-day span from Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 1982, all collapsing suddenly after ingesting an Extra-Strength Tylenol pill. One of several that were found during an investigation to have been laced with a beyond fatal amount of potassium cyanide.
Mary Kellerman, a 12-year-old girl from Schaumburg, was the first to die. She collapsed in her bathroom at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 29 after taking Tylenol to ease the pain from an early morning sickness.
Adam Janus, a 27-year-old postal worker from Arlington Heights, came home early that same day at noon, took two Tylenol and collapsed. His brother Stanley and sister-in-law Theresa both died later that day after taking Tylenol from the same bottle while mourning Adam’s death.
Mary “Lynn” Reiner was at home in Winfield just a week after giving birth to her fourth child when she ingested the poisoned Tylenol.
Mary McFarland, 31, of Elmhurst was working at an Illinois Bell store in Lombard. Paula Prince, a flight attendant for United Airlines, was found dead in her Chicago apartment two days after purchasing Tylenol at a Walgreens nearby.