Eagle White Lead - Paint so bright, you'll die.

Lead paint wasn't banned until 1977, and even now it is still sometimes used in military applications and parking lot stripes. Note to self: try to ignore those delicious "peel-n-eat" stripes at Jewel. (I often shop hungry). So, is it fair to make fun of this ad from 1943 for trumpeting lead's virtues as a paint additive? Absolutely not. So, let's begin.

During WWII (not to be confused with Nintendo's Wii), Americans were tightening belts and rationing food to help defeat "Jerry" (a pejorative name for the Germans) and the "Japs" (A pejorative term for the Japanese, although it's just an abbreviation so why does it make me feel like a jerk just typing it?). So, people were inclined to skip painting their houses, apparently, maybe to save money and maybe to keep from diverting supplies from the war effort.

Lead, when added to paint, helps the paint in almost every way. It helps with adhesion, flow, and weather resistance. The delicious, peeling, flaky irony is that the very lead paint that the Eagle company was so proud of would have made a fine weapon for the war. Although it wouldn't have blown people up so nicely as explosives, it would however lead to stunted growth, delayed nervous system development, memory loss, headaches, abdominal pain, insomnia, delirium, cognitive impairment, vomiting, weight loss, kidney failure, learning disabilities, coma, seizures, and .... reproductive dysfunction! *Meeeeeroop*. Also lots more.

So, how early did we know lead was a bad paint ingredient and terrible cupcake topping? Well, according to the Wikipedia* article, Dioscorides, a second-century Greek physician, noted that Lead "made the mind give way". History is filled with observations and evidence that lead in your blood is super bad news. Soooo, lead paint was legal in the United States until 1977? Doubleyou tee eff? We can only speculate.

We can also speculate that the happy fella in the picture (one of a fine pair of Disembodied Floating Heads, by the way) may want to think about having children before he paints the house. technically, the ad isn't lying. Lead makes paint work very well, so long as you park your house on the moon and rent an apartment on Earth. It's doesn't help that Eagle White Lead came in in a container that made it look just like butter.

I was born before 1977, so I probably lived in a house that had lead paint in it. Am I fine? Maybe. Can I be sure I wouldn't be taller, smarter, or faster if I'd grown up in a forest instead? Maybe, but I craaf befoo woo fraaff blaaaf a faaaf.

* A note on Wikipedia: Wikipedia has been found to be nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica on scientific topics, in a study conducted by the science journal Nature. The more controversial a topic is (politics, religion, etc), the more likely it is that the Wikipedia article on that topic is to have errors, hyperbole, invective, or other useless opinion as part of it's content. In matters of science or history, Wikipedia is a really good source of information. Also, articles are flagged by editorial moderators if they don't cite their sources, or are poorly written. The Wikipedia article on lead poisoning has no such flags and LOTS of citations. It looks pretty air tight. For the casual researcher, Wikipedia is not infallible, but a pretty good tool if you know what to look out for.


Phil said...

I respect your addendum.

mandy said...

It makes such a good white though!

fizzy said...

Also made Eagle Insulation -- "thick, fireproof mineral wool"? In the 70's, board voted to cease operations when they determined that it would take the GNP of the entire Earth to pay off the lawsuits.

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