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Timeline

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8,5000 Years of LEAD...
79 Years of LEADED Gasoline

BC:

About the Author

Jamie Lincoln Kitman
Jamie Lincoln Kitman, New York bureau chief for Automobile Magazine, won an investigative reporting award from...

Also by the Author

General Motors must shoulder blame for a faulty product mix and a
stubborn resistance to the idea of single-payer health insurance, which
sent benefits costs soaring.

The stalling of the Republican-backed energy bill by a Democrat-led Senate filibuster was only a temporary reprieve.


6500 BC.

Lead discovered in Turkey.


3000 BC.

First significant production of lead.


500 BC-300 AD.

Roman lead smelting produces dangerous emissions.


100 BC.

Greek physicians give clinical description of lead poisoning.

1800s:


1854.

Tetraethyl lead (TEL) discovered by German chemist.


1887.

US medical authorities diagnose childhood lead poisoning.

1900s:


1904.

Child lead poisoning linked to lead-based paints.


1909.

France, Belgium and Austria ban white-lead interior paint.

1910s:


1914.

Pediatric lead-paint poisoning death from eating crib paint is described.


1916.

GM and United Motors buy Charles Kettering's DELCO, which experiments with preventing engine knock.


1918.

Scientific American reports alcohol-gasoline blend can be used as motor fuel.


1918.

Thomas Midgley patents benzene/gasoline blend as antiknock.


1919.

Du Pont interests buy additional shares of GM.


1919.

London General Omnibus Co. experiments prove ethanol is antiknock.


1919.

Kettering gives Midgley two weeks to find antiknock.

1920s:


1920.

US Naval Committee approves alcohol-gasoline blend.


1920.

Midgley patents alcohol and cracked (olefin) gasoline blend.


1920.

Du Pont now owns more than 35 percent of GM.


1921.

National Lead Company admits lead is a poison.


1921.

Midgley demonstrates car powered by 30 percent alcohol-gasoline blend.


1921.

Midgley discovers that tetraethyl lead (TEL) curbs engine knock.


1922.

League of Nations bans white-lead interior paint; US declines to adopt.


1922.

GM contracts Du Pont to supply TEL.


1922.

Public Health Service (PHS) warns of dangers of lead production, leaded fuel.


1922.

Scientists express concern to Midgley over TEL in gas.


1923.

Midgley repairs to Miami to recover from lead poisoning.


1923.

Leaded gasoline goes on sale in selected markets.


1923.

GM Chemical Corporation established to produce TEL.


1923.

First Du Pont TEL plant opens at Deepwater, NJ.


1923.

First TEL-poisoning deaths occur at Deepwater plant.


1923.

GM contracts toothless Bureau of Mines to test TEL.


1924.

Two GM employees die of lead poisoning at TEL plant. Dr. Robert Kehoe hired to study hazards at plant. Begins career as lead's lead apologist.


1924.

GM forms medical committee to examine lead threat.


1924.

Standard Oil begins production of TEL at Bayway plant.


1924.

GM and Standard Oil of NJ form Ethyl Gasoline Corp.


1924.

GM medical committee delivers negative and highly cautionary report on TEL. Irénée du Pont "not disturbed."


1924.

Five workers die of lead poisoning at Bayway plant.


1924.

NY Board of Health bans sales of TEL-enhanced gasoline.


1924.

Bureau of Mines study gives TEL clean bill of health.


1924.

Standard Oil suspends sale of leaded gasoline in NJ.


1924.

Officials of GM, Standard, Du Pont request Surgeon General hold public hearings.


1925.

Forgetting ethanol, Midgley proclaims TEL is only viable antiknock.


1925.

Yale's Yandell Henderson warns of danger from breathing lead dust in auto emissions.


1925.

Du Pont opens second TEL plant.


1925.

Ethyl withdraws its gasoline from market until Surgeon General's conference.


1925.

SG's conference calls for expert committee to study TEL.


1926.

Committee calls for regulating sales of Ethyl and for further study by PHS, funded by Congress (studies never funded).


1926.

Signs in gas stations: "Ethyl is back."


1926.

Du Pont reopens Deepwater TEL plant.


1926.

GM President Sloan expresses concern about valve corrosion with Ethyl.


1927.

GM quells rebellion of dealers against use of lead fuel.


1928.

Lead Industries Association formed to combat "undesirable publicity."


1928.

Surgeon General tells NYC there are "no good grounds" to ban TEL.

1930s:


1930.

Ethyl Export is founded in England to sell leaded gas overseas.


1932.

British Medical Journal cites "slow, subtle insidious saturation of the system by infinitesimal doses of lead extending over long period of time."


1933.

USDA, naval researchers find Ethyl and 20 percent ethanol blend equal in performance.


1934.

Ethyl and I.G. Farben form Ethyl GmbH to make leaded airplane fuel.


1936.

90 percent of gasoline sold in US contains Ethyl.


1938.

Ethyl Export becomes Associated Ethyl Company.

1940s:


1943.

Report concludes eating lead paint chips causes physical and neurological disorders, behavior, learning and intelligence problems in children.


1948.

US files antitrust suit against Du Pont to break up "largest single concentration of power in the United States." Main target is Du Pont's $560 million investment in GM.

1950s:


1950.

Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit identifies causes of smog in LA as interaction of hydrocarbons (cars largest source) and oxides of nitrogen.


1952.

Justice Dept antitrust suit against Du Pont focuses on anticompetitve association between it, GM, Standard Oil and Ethyl.


1954.

Octel begins TEL production in England.

Mid-1950s. Auto makers pact stifles development of emissions-control devices.


1959.

PHS approves Ethyl request to increase lead in gasoline. PHS regrets that SG committee's 1926 call for studies was not followed up.

1960s:


1961.

Ethyl and Associated Octel compete for overseas trade.


1962.

Ethyl sold to Albemarle Paper Co. in $200 million leveraged buyout partly financed by sellers, GM and Standard Oil.


1965.

Clair Patterson's study "Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man" offers first hard proof that high lead levels in industrial nations are man-made and endemic.


1966.

Senate Public Works Committee holds first hearings on air pollution.


1969.

Auto makers settle suit by Justice Department for conspiracy to delay the development of pollution-control devices.

1970s:


1970.

Passage of Clean Air Act.


1970.

To avert threatened legislation to restrict use of internal-combustion engine, GM agrees to add catalytic converters to meet Clean Air law. Active element of converters--platinum--is contaminated by leaded gas, presaging its demise.


1971.

Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act passed.


1972.

EPA gives notice of proposed phaseout of lead in gasoline. In first use of Freedom of Information Act, Ethyl sues EPA.


1973.

EPA promulgates lead phaseout in gasoline but delays setting standards. When standards are set, EPA sued by Ethyl.


1976.

EPA standards upheld by US Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal.


1978.

Energy Tax Act creates ethanol tax incentive, expanding use of ethanol in US.

1980s:


1980.

National Academy of Sciences calls leaded gasoline greatest source of atmospheric lead pollution.


1980.

National Security Act of 1980 mandates all gasoline be blended with a minimum of 10 percent grain alcohol--"gasohol." Subsequently scuttled by Reagan Administration.


1980.

Gasohol Competition Act passed by Congress to stop oil companies' discrimination against sales of gasohol at their pumps.


1980.

Ethyl reports it has expanded its overseas business tenfold between 1964 and 1981; profits help fund diversification.


1981.

Vice President George Bush's Task Force on Regulatory Relief proposes to relax or eliminate US leaded gas phaseout.


1982.

Reagan Administration reverses opposition to lead phaseout.


1983.

Between 1976 and 1980, EPA reports, amount of lead consumed in gasoline dropped 50 percent. Blood-lead levels dropped 37 percent. Benefits of phaseout exceed costs by $700 million.


1986.

Primary phaseout of leaded gas in US completed.

1990s:


1992.

Rio environmental summit calls for worldwide lead phaseout.


1994.

Study shows that US blood-lead levels declined by 78 percent from 1978 to 1991.


1994.

American Academy of Pediatrics study shows direct relationship between lead exposure and IQ deficits in children.


1996.

World Bank calls for world phaseout of leaded gasoline.

2000s:


2000.

European Union bans leaded gasoline.

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