TiL the car and gas industry knew about the health risks of leaded fuel but sold it for 100 years anyway

submitted by Avatar A_A edited

link :

... and there was a very interesting episode on NPR radio about a great man in this story :

Clair Cameron Patterson
He Triumphs against corporations' greed in the end 👍.

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Bayer also sold medicine that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS to Asia and Latin America when outlawed in the USA in the 80s. Why in all fuck their corporate charter wasn't permanently suspended and the company sold off is BEYOND me.

Avatar A_A [OP]

Many people are (...)* by big profits.
(*) I can't find the right word.



Avatar A_A [OP]

Yes, fitting word, but not the best since it has a double meaning (sexual).



Works both ways too.

As in power corrupts as does cancer.

Avatar A_A [OP]

This is exactly the right word, unfortunately, we see it use too often in this context : "Many people are corrupted by big profits". ... and because we got habituated, it's not striking anymore as it should.


Corporations don't have morals. Aspiring businessmen don't take ethics classes. There are only two questions: Does it increase profits? Is it illegal? They will ignore rule two if none of the board goes to jail and the fines are less than the profits. They would sell you leaded gas today if they earned a fraction of a penny more per gallon. They do not care about anything aside from profits. That's capitalism.


This is why libertarians are even stupider versions of Republicans. At least Republicans are just corrupt assholes. Libertarians are corrupt and stupidly naive assholes.

Avatar haui

Its a perfect example of why we need mandatory jail sentences for these things and fines that always oncorporate double the profits of an illegal action.


The global authorities would need to keep the US out of the equation as they would probably say something along the lines of 'give us a percentage and we'll look the other way... Again.

Avatar haui

The US is very deep in corruption and populism. I pity the citizens of that country. Education is being dismantled, people are being brainwashed every day. Its disgusting, really.


but but but social darwinism but but laissez faire /s

admiralteal , edited

This is a heartbeat of history; people who can profit off of the suffering of others will do so remorselessly.

So many other stories you can look up. Obvious shit like climate change or smoking, where it's well-known how unrepentantly evil the industry has been in suppressing the science and research they KNEW indict their product.

For an equally-tragic but less-well-known story, you could look into the Radon Girls. That's a heartbreaking saga of corporate malfeasance where the bad guys basically got away with it.

If you like podcasts, this is narratively similar to the content in two of my favorites. You're Wrong About and Well There's Your Problem. The former is more about cultural moments and moral panics, the latter is oriented towards the arrogance and carelessness of engineers (though sometimes is just historical stories).


I'm reasonably sure it's Radium Girls, but yes: tragic, and totally on brand for capitalism.


I think it's mostly because of humans, they seem to be shitty, and able to skirt any system you can imagine.


And you can be sure whatever causes all major illness today, they know, but it's too profitable to do anything about it.

The things the sugar industry knows for example, but everyone is turning a blind eye.

Avatar MelodiousFunk

SciShow did a piece (partially) about this recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXEFQH5UXHQ

And Veritasium did a deeper dive a while back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV3dnLzthDA

The whole situation is thoroughly fucked up, but hey, as long as people are making money amirite? 😑

threelonmusketeers , edited

Came here to post these exact links :)

Great videos.

Avatar A_A [OP]

ideally, I was hoping (but I failed) to put the spotlight on the positives :
1- Now we don't have lead in gasoline (except for airplane & sport races) ,
2- Put the emphasis on one hero on this story which I name in the body of the post,
3- See how people can triumph over greed.


People CAN triumph over greed. After 100 YEARS.

Avatar MamLaLiq

I really like the Veritasium video.

The ending of Thomas Midgley Jr. feels like some Wes Anderson take, I wish I was there to see it with my own eyes.


Add in asbestos and other stuff. The US has always prioritized the wealth of business owners.


Wait until OP learns that oil companies covered up their own research which proved they were wrecking the environment with CO2 pollution.

Or that the sugar industry covered up the evidence that sugary food caused the obesity epidemic and they told everyone it was actually fatty foods doing it.


Man, that The Conversation article is just listing individual events and it still reads like a crime scene. Obviously, because it was a crime, but deep down I had still a tiny bit of hope that the companies were not quite as blunt about it.

Avatar A_A [OP] , edited

You are right : the corporations were criminal here, but there was also a hero here (Clair Cameron Patterson) I did put his name + a link in the body of my post, and he won in the end.
Edit : ok, i updated my post to put a spotlight on this.


We will probably say the same thing about plastics in a few decades.

We know the health risk associated to micro plastics but we continue to use them everywhere


Don't worry, we're still burning leaded gas in aviation...


Tetraethyl lead (TEL) was introduced in the 20s, but was largely eliminated from passenger cars *in the US* by the end of the 70s, and banned in the 90s. You can still get TEL additives for fuels for certain classic cars that require it, and certain aviation fuels still have TEL because they haven't found anything else that works in those applications yet.

You can blame Thomas Midgely Jr. for the introduction of both TEL and chrlorofluorocarbons (CFCs used in refrigerants).


certain aviation fuels still have TEL because they haven't found anything else that works in those applications yet.

They have finally found a replacement. A company called GAMI got approval for replacement of 100LL in all engines in 2021. No modifications are necessary, aside from a sticker. It's called G100UL. They're ramping up production, it's only available in a few airports atm.

Of course it could've been replaced decades ago if the political will existed to ban it, but 🤷‍♂️

Mr Fish , edited

You will observe with concern how long a useful truth may be known, and exist, before it is generally received and practiced on - Ben Franklin


They still do lead for small plane engines

Avatar A_A [OP] , edited

Thanks. Well, ...I know since others made similar comments 😋
(see comments from th3dogcow and from @[email protected] )

Avatar j4k3 , edited

And all current politicians, and most Lemmy users, and certainly all reddit users are brain damaged as a result.

..."we could improve our machining tolerances and stop using ancient sand casting techniques where the cores float and move. Or hell we could just ignore those low quality crudes from Venezuela"...

"Nah! Dumb consumers are best for capitalism. Give them lead."

~~All~~ airplanes are still using leaded fuels, so if you live near the end of a runway... depending on the average education level of the area, you likely have the cheapest real estate in the region.

Avatar th3dogcow

All airplanes are still using leaded fuels

Jet fuel doesn’t contain lead. Only the avgas used by smaller planes with piston engines.

Still, it’s unbelievable that this fuel is still being used in 2024!


Only a small subset of aeroplanes. And it's not a thing in most of the developed world.

Avatar ggnoredo