Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Elements in Common: Carbon and Lead

Plumbing Profits at the Cost of People's Health

Lead (Pb) 82nd element in the periodic table
Leaded gasoline was the norm in the United States for more than 60 years, until it was finally phased out in 1986. In the years since, blood-level concentrations of lead, a toxic poison and known carcinogen, have declined 75%.

How lead became a gasoline additive despite its known health effects, and how it remained so is an instructive story, which has been exhaustively documented.
The leaded gas adventurers have profitably polluted the world on a grand scale and, in the process, have provided a model for ... twentieth-century corporate bad actors, for evading clear evidence that their products are harmful by hiding behind the mantle of scientific uncertainty.
Even though we've gone unleaded in the US, profits can still be made. Almost all gasoline in Africa and the Middle East still contains lead, as does nearly 1/3 of gasoline in Asia and South America.

I suspect that, decades from now, when the history of anthropogenic carbon emissions is written, there will be overwhelming parallels to the sordid history of lead: peddling poison for profit, obfuscating that truth, and frustrating any and all attempts at alternatives. As was true with the story of lead, so too with the saga of carbon: significant numbers of those we elect to serve the public interest will not do so, choosing instead to serve those interests on whose campaign contributions and expenditures they depend.

When will we learn?

No comments:

Post a Comment