Lead is a chemical element that has seen industrial and household use for hundreds of years, perhaps most famously by the Roman Empire as a sweetener for their wine, a pliable metal for plumbing, and a pigment in paint.
Lead was used in paint for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were the sharp colors of some lead oxides, but also because it is notable for its ability to expand and contract along with changes in the temperature of the base material it’s applied to without cracking.
The toxic effects of lead exposure were suspected by the ancient Greeks and Romans — the legendary architect Vitruvius warned of the danger of drinking the water near lead mines — but despite this the use of the chemical expanded following the industrial revolution.
The chemical is a neurotoxin which the human body does not readily process but instead accumulates in the skeleton, organs and musculature.
Once exposed to it, the chemical can interfere with normal bodily function resulting, according to the Centers for Disease Control, in damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, as well as learning, behavioral, hearing and speech problems.
Children exposed to lead can have lower IQ scores, difficulty learning, and life long health complications.
Use of lead in household paints was banned in 1978 but no such ban was made for industrial applications, like bridges and skyscrapers.
Matthew Medsger Matthew Medsger is a Boston Herald reporter covering politics and the State House, or anything else which may occur. Matthew also reported on the environment and science at the Nashua Telegraph and crime at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Matthew walked into a recruiter’s office in Pittsburgh, on Sept. 12, 2001, was stationed in Massachusetts in 2003, and never managed to successfully leave. Matthew studied communications and philosophy at UMass Lowell and will argue with anyone, about anything, for free. You can begin the argument @matthew_medsger