Friday, January 29, 2016

Lead regulation in history

Virginia Zaunbrecher at Legal Planet has an interesting post putting the Flint, Michigan lead crisis in historical context, noting, among other things, that lead use in the U.S. has actually gone up during most of the period when blood lead concentrations were dropping. Here's some more comparative background, surprising to me:
Childhood lead poisoning was linked to lead paints in 1904.  France, Belgium and Austria banned white-lead paint in 1909.  The National Lead Company admitted lead was a poison in 1921.  The League of Nations banned white-lead interior paint in 1922 (you know an environmental regulation is old if it was issued by the League of Nations), but the U.S. declined to implement the ban.  Instead, the U.S. waited nearly half a century (1971) to pass the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (42 U.S.C. 4822), although some local jurisdictions started banning it as early as the 1950s.  The ban on lead paint was fully implemented in the U.S. 1978, 74 years after childhood lead poisoning was linked to lead paints.
(courtesy Thester11)


  1. Hi David:
    Came across this interesting post accidentally and belatedly. Actually, it wasn't the League of Nations but the International Labour Organization (ILO, though created by the League in 1919) which adopted Convention No. 13 concerning the use of white lead in painting in 1921. Virginia Steinbrecher rightly highlights US opposition (thanks mainly to the Lead Industries Association), but several other countries also never ratified the Convention (among them Canada, Germany, Israel, the UK, and of course China - chief culprit in producing lead-painted toys!). There is a nice environment-law-history article on the issue by Christopher Sellers, "Cross-Nationalizing the History of Industrial Hazard", Medical History 54 (2010) 315-340.
    - Peter