I have no doubts regarding Thomas Midgley. He killed the most people in the history but my belief is that is was not an accident. We are discussing a scientist, a man who knew the dangers that he was allowing to occur. There is a superb Youtube channel called Veritasium that has the whole story laid out in a clear and concise way.
Thomas Midgley created leaded petroleum to stop knocking in engines. He knew it was poisonous, Midgley even suffered from lead poisoned himself and kept it quiet. The new multibillion dollar chemical was named tetraethyl with the product being called ethyl. No mention of lead and even worse was that US giants Dupoint, GM motors and Standard Oil clubbed together to create the ethyl corporation. This spread the poison nationwide and ten worldwide.
An indication of how toxic this substance was came when a factory was built in New Jersey. Within two months dozens of workers fell ill and five died of lead poisoning. The effects of lead in the system lasts for years as it mimics calcium and gradually degrades the nerves. It is worse when we discuss the brain. Lead breaks down the myelin sheath around axons and prevents the release of neurotransmitters. Those common symptoms are permanent and cause behaviour and learning disorders, especially in children. If you watch the Veritasium video you will she how intelligence, crime and death all correlate to the introduction and use of lead in fuel for vehicles. It is shocking and a prime example of the greed that comes of cheap solutions to put profits first.
You will observe with concern how long a useful truth may be known and exist before it is generally received and practiced onBenjamin Franklin 1768
The dangers of lead have been known for hundreds of years. The quote by Benjamin Franklin is a warning that should have been heeded. Yet it is another example of the ignorance that has killed, and continues to destroy. Lead is believed to be responsible for tow thirds of unexplained intellectual disability. 20th century Americans have 1000 times more lead in their bones and teeth than Peruvian/Egyptian mummies from 1600 years ago. Deaths from Lead poisoning is estimated between 500 to 900 thousand a year. A 2020 Unicef report states that approximately 800 million children have too much lead in their blood. That is 1 in 3 which is directly connected to Midgley’s decision to continue and the fuel companies irresponsible behaviour.
As we are discussing Thomas Midgley, General Motors were so happy with Ethyl that they asked him to look at another appliance they made. GM made fridges and the chemical used were flammable and toxic. Midgley was tasked with coming up with another solution. In 1928 he came up with safer refrigerant, dichlorodifluoromethane. They named it Freon and other such CFCs were used in appliances and aerosols. The known issue with this chemical is how light it is. How it rises and climbs into the stratosphere where it stays there for unto 100 years. Dues to a a reaction with UV light, the unstable result is a natural disaster and a hole in the ozone layer. The resulting unrestrained UV light means skin cancer and cataracts.
Midgley had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history’Historian John McNeil
The last country to ban leaded fuel did so in 2021. Piston driven planes still use the fuel. Midgley died in his own contraption which does not deserve time in this article. Please watch the video below as there are facts that are important regarding Thomas Midgley and lead in the atmosphere.