Friday 2nd February 1923
Gasoline mixed with tetraethyl lead was first sold to the public at a roadside gas station owned by Willard Talbott in Dayton, Ohio, US. Coined “ethyl gasoline” (leaded gasoline) by Charles Kettering of General Motors, the blend was discovered by General Motors’ laboratory technician Thomas Midgley to beneficially alter the combustion rate of gasoline. This discovery has been cited by Time Magazine as one of the 50 worst inventions of all time.For nearly six decades, gasoline companies ignored the known dangers associated with lead to get rich. Tetraethyl lead boosted the octane levels in auto fuel, but there was speculation surrounding the safety of that decision from Day One. In the Nov. 10, 1924, issue of TIME, a report showed that 35 men at the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey had come down with an “occupational disease.” Symptoms ranged from insomnia to low blood pressure, all at the hands of lead poisoning. The EPA completed a full phaseout of lead gasoline in 1986, ending the quest to trade steady health for steady sales.