In just over a decade, tetraethyl lead gasoline—under the brand name Ethyl, cunningly not mentioning the “lead” bit—had actually captured 80 per cent of the US market. All the way, General Motors and Midgley insisted it was safe, despite plenty of what you might call “warning signs.” Huge flashing neon warning signs. Like the fact that in February 1923, when Ethyl first went on sale, Midgley himself had to take the whole month off work due to ill-health caused by the lead fumes. Or like the fact that workers at the factories that made the fuel kept on dying a lot. Five workers died from lead poisoning at the Bayway plant in New Jersey, and 35 were hospitalized, many of them driven insane by the neurological effects of lead—”the patient becomes violently maniacal, shouting, leaping from the bed, smashing furniture and acting as if in delirium tremens” one report recorded.
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Poor fellow made a “mistake”, but note the impact of the Gooferment’s “patent system” at the root of this and many other problems.
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