Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
The youth people say stop but some feel unconscious
Photo by Christian Lue / Unsplash

A bit ago when I broke the cable that gave me Android Auto, I was listening to the radio and heard a story about lead poisoning decades ago causing an increase of aggression and thus crime.

So I started researching the only thing that I remembered at the time with lead in it, which was leaded gasoline and nothing I found surprised me anymore.

"window, living room picture window - 99 - replacement - lead paint warning sign - IMG_3111 - (20110627)" by Claire CJS is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

For starters I found an article (bbc.com) that basically summarized that we knew lead was toxic for humans long before it was finally outlawed. I mean lead white paint in the 1600's were killing people and yet we still used it to push performance in engines nearly 300 years later.

My guess is these big companies started realizing that they had 2 options:

  • Invest in some new option, like perhaps Ethyl additions to gasoline, with the benefit of a global farming union able to distill it from simply grain at a slightly higher cost.
  • Invest in tetra-ethyl lead and build a large refinery to refine this deadly additive at cheaper prices, but invest heavily in studies to give false impressions that lead is okay to delay regulations that prevent the use of it.

So the petrol companies of the world did decide to refine tetra-ethyl lead even while workers at the "loony gas building" died of lead poisoning quite frequently (wired.com). So this led the states to an investigation - probably 10-20 folks have died at this point simply refining TEL (tetra-ethyl lead) and the use of TEL needed to be stopped.

A few states banned the use of it, which lead to a huge national research and task force to determine the public safety of TEL. Like predicted the research proved "no danger" as long as workers were well protected during production. This was a crucial mistake that our country made with only short term profits in mind and not worrying about the future. We probably did another 50 years of TEL before it was officially banned (greencarreports.com) from being a gasoline additive.

In that 50 years though lead had permeated itself due to a growing population of cars and even had been put into paint on the walls! A simple blow of dust on the road while walking could hold a dangerous amount of lead on it. So we affected millions of Americans that would go on to die of lead-induced issues (who.int).

That is not the part that really bugs me though - do you know why the companies really stopped using TEL? Regulation came in to mandate catalytic converters as they reduced the emissions a vehicle emitted. Though, it became painfully obvious that TEL just eroded and destroyed catalytic converters. So now you have a mandated technology that is not working with a toxic technology and this is what forced companies to change - regulation.

I found a word exists for this called "The Environment Kuznets Curve" which suggests that a company starts with little profit and cuts corners to get to market in a variety of unsafe ways. Once funding comes in and an elevation to economic growth then only does the environmental improvements come.

This bugs me because it took TEL nearly 80 years to get off the market when it was clear it was toxic from the beginning. So now I sit here and think about all the changes to life we have now:

  • A phone near us 24 hours a day
  • Bluetooth everywhere
  • WiFi everywhere
  • 3G / 4G / 5G everywhere
  • An aging water infrastructure
  • A healthcare system that wants you on medication for $$$

Is it possible there is an unfunded study and someone warning of a future to come? Or as we've seen in the past will companies simply battle with alternative research delaying in the inevitable to line the pockets with future funds.

I don't know what the future holds, but I think its clear we are moving from a world of solving problems to a world of lining share holder pockets at the risk of damaging ourselves and the planet.

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