Charlie Buttrey

June 16, 2022

Lead was first added to gasoline in 1923. It was good for car engines, but not so good for human health. It began to be phased out in the U.S. in 1973, and the Clean Air Act banned it entirely by 1996.

But the damage had already been done.

A study that was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that researchers used data on childhood blood-lead levels, leaded gas use, and population to gauge the lifetime exposure of every American adult in 2015. The results of that research revealed that more than 170 million Americans had exposure to concerning levels of lead as children, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and reduced cognitive ability. Drawing on existing research into the effect of lead on IQ, researchers estimate that Americans lost 2.6 IQ points on average as a result of contamination from leaded gasoline. Americans who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, when the burning of leaded gasoline was at its peak, had the greatest exposure, losing up to six IQ points on average.

According to Wikipedia, Algeria became the last country to ban leaded gasoline. In 2021.


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