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International journal of occupational and environmental health

Ethyl-leaded gasoline: how a classic occupational disease became an international public health disaster.


PMID 16350473

Abstract

The author describes the controversy about the use of tetraethyl lead (TEL) as a gasoline additive. Early warnings were ignored by industry, and as leaded gasoline became more profitable, scientists willing to support industry were financed as guardians of the scientific criteria for lead's health impacts. Controversy erupted in 1924 after refinery accidents left workers dying from violent insanity. In efforts to protect their profits, industry executives falsely claimed there was no alternative to leaded gasoline. Fifty years passed before scientific, court, and regulatory challenges had any influence. When independent research finally emerged, the results were damning enough to support an international phase-out of leaded gasoline.