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How leaded fuel was sold for 100 years, despite knowing its health risks

//i.imgur.com/VHewdMS.jpg)

https://theconversation.com/a-century-of-tragedy-how-the-car-and-gas-industry-knew-about-the-health-risks-of-leaded-fuel-but-sold-it-for-100-years-anyway-173395

Quote:

A century of leaded gasoline has taken millions of lives and to this day leaves the soil in many cities from New Orleans to London toxic.

The leaded gasoline story provides a practical example of how industry’s profit-driven decisions—when unsuccessfully challenged and regulated—can cause serious and long-term harm. It takes individual public health leaders and strong media coverage of health and environmental issues to counter these risks.

There's a nice graph there too:

//images.theconversation.com/files/436456/original/file-20211208-68670-1nmlwhl.jpg)

Extra course credits for reading up on the Lead-Crime hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead%E2%80%93crime_hypothesis

Quote:

A 2011 study by the California State University found that "Ridding the world of leaded petrol, with the United Nations leading the effort in developing countries, has resulted in $2.4 trillion in annual benefits, 1.2 million fewer premature deaths, higher overall intelligence and 58 million fewer crimes", according to the United Nations News Centre. The executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner argued that "Although this global effort has often flown below the radar of [the] media and global leaders, it is clear that the elimination of leaded petrol is an immense achievement on par with the global elimination of major deadly diseases."

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19 comments

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hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Just seen this study on lead exposure and stunted IQs of people in the U.S.

https://people.com/health/leaded-gasoline-lowered-the-iq-of-half-of-u-s-population-study-finds/

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andystow | 2 years ago
1 like

In the USA at least, the gasoline (petrol) sold at airports for general aviation (think Cessnas, Pipers, and the like) is still leaded. Planes and engines are expensive enough that there are still quite a few from the 1940s and 1950s around, and as they're not certified to run on unleaded fuel, here we are.

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TheBillder replied to andystow | 2 years ago
2 likes

Aviation certification is a mess. Many light aircraft still use magnetos, which fell out of use in cars in the 1930s I think. It's easier to fit a full glass cockpit than a simple electronic ignition upgrade, because engine mods are so expensive to certify.

However, lead pollution from old light aircraft isn't much of a problem because there are few of them, they don't fly much and the pollution disperses in the atmosphere. Private flying has about a 5:1 mucking about to actually doing it ratio, and that's a good thing.

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IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
2 likes

What is also interesting is that when in the UK they introduced unleaded petrol, they did it without first introducing catalytic converters.

Unleaded petrol was introduced in 1986, catalytic converters were introduced in 1992, but of course it was not compusory (or feasible) to have cars converted over, so for a good decade we had the majority of cars pumping out cancer-producing phenols into the atmosphere instead of brain-fogging lead. (In the 80s I lived in Walsall - no it is not in PolandI! - and Caldmore, right under the M6 by the M5 interchange had the highest lead levels in the country and it showed). If you visited the USA even back in the late 1980s, they had strange devices on petrol pumps to stop petrol fumes being inhaled - something we still don't have.

So the dubious health impact of fuel for motor cars was not resolved by removing lead. At the time I thought it was odd that there was quite a lobby against unleaded petrol, but catalytic converters just drifted in without debate. I'm sure there are some interesting Government documents from the era that would make interesting reading.

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Sriracha replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
2 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

 At the time I thought it was odd that there was quite a lobby against unleaded petrol, but catalytic converters just drifted in without debate.

Unleaded petrol wrankled die-hard fans of V8 Jensens (etc) worried about valve seat erosion. Catalysts were only for new cars of course.

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brooksby replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:
IanMSpencer wrote:

 At the time I thought it was odd that there was quite a lobby against unleaded petrol, but catalytic converters just drifted in without debate.

Unleaded petrol wrankled die-hard fans of V8 Jensens (etc) worried about valve seat erosion. Catalysts were only for new cars of course.

Historic vehicles can have 'hardened' heads fitted so unleaded fuel isn't a problem.

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Dropped replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
4 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

If you visited the USA even back in the late 1980s, they had strange devices on petrol pumps to stop petrol fumes being inhaled - something we still don't have.

Nearly all petrol stations in the UK now have stage II vapour recovery, that recovers VOCs released at the pump when refueling with gasoline, as required by EU legislation (needless red tape a.k.a. public health protection).

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Captain Badger replied to Dropped | 2 years ago
1 like
Dropped wrote:

....

Nearly all petrol stations in the UK now have stage II vapour recovery, that recovers VOCs released at the pump when refueling with gasoline, as required by EU legislation (needless red tape a.k.a. public health protection).

Facking insanity. It's elf and safety GORN MAAAIIRRRRD

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joe9090 replied to Dropped | 2 years ago
4 likes

but but but sovereignty!

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wycombewheeler replied to Dropped | 2 years ago
3 likes
Dropped wrote:
IanMSpencer wrote:

If you visited the USA even back in the late 1980s, they had strange devices on petrol pumps to stop petrol fumes being inhaled - something we still don't have.

Nearly all petrol stations in the UK now have stage II vapour recovery, that recovers VOCs released at the pump when refueling with gasoline, as required by EU legislation (needless red tape a.k.a. public health protection).

Lead also removed from UK petrol in 2000 due to EU rules.

resulting in improved health, higher IQs and less crime. Damn these medaling europeans and their needless red tape.

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Sriracha replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:

Damn these medaling europeans and their needless red tape.

Actually crossing the tape it was Lance Armstrong who medaled in 2000, needlessly as it turned out.

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Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
6 likes

Not mentioned in the interesting article linked that Thomas Midgely, who was the main driver of adding lead to petrol, then went on to develop CFCs, making him arguably the individual with the worst environmental impact in human history. He became paralysed with polio in later life and invented a rope-and-pulley contraption to get him out of bed; one morning he got tangled up in it and it strangled him to death. One can't help feeling his teachers should have encouraged him more towards the arts subjects...

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
0 likes

I did see that in some related info, but thought that maybe he didn't realise the issues with CFCs?

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes

I'm not much good on chemistry but Wiki says "They [Midgely & team] rejected the assumption that such compounds [CFCs] would be toxic, believing that the stability of the carbon–fluorine bond would be sufficient to prevent the release of hydrogen fluoride or other potential breakdown products" which sounds as though some folks certainly raised misgivings.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
2 likes

Fair enough - I'm taking him off my Xmas card list

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
3 likes

I'm pretty sure that NSTAAF also stated Midgeley did some demonstration of inhaling the product and pouring it over his hands to show leaded petrol wasn't poisonous as well, yet had to take several breaks in his life due to lead poisoning. 

Edit: With the CFC side, he was probably right at sea level. It was when it all gathered in the upper atmosphere closer to the Sun's radiation that it started to breakdown wasn't it?

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Rendel Harris replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
3 likes

Yes you're right (I mean I've looked it up and you're right!) so guess he gets an "unforeseeable accident" pass on that one. You're right about the lead demo too and he knew it was poisonous, dozens of workers were dying in the lead additive plants. Seems his devotion to GM's profits meant he was willing to risk his own health.

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TheBillder replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
4 likes

Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is very good on Midgely - but then it's very good on nearly everything. Highly recommended and should be read by everyone in the entire world. Twice.

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Rendel Harris replied to TheBillder | 2 years ago
1 like

Thoroughly agree, I've read it five or six times now and really wish it had been around when I was younger, I learned a lot more from it than from six years of science lessons!

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