A Creeping and Malicious Poison

A Creeping and Malicious Poison

Tetraethyllead, TEL, is an organolead compound with the formula (CH3CH2)4Pb

Throughout 1922, as the first plans were made to develop tetraethyl lead, Midgley had received an alarming letter from Charles Kraus of Pottsdam in Germany. Kraus had worked on tetraethyl lead for many years and called it "a creeping and malicious poison" that had killed a senior scientist at his university. 

With gasoline sales around eight billion gallons per year, 20 percent would represent two billion gallons, and three cents gross would bring in $60 million per year. With the cost of production and distribution less than one cent per gallon of (tetraE-lead) TREATED gasoline, more than two-thirds of this would be annual gross profit. As it turned out, these original figures dancing through Midgley's mind were modest compared to the market success that would come later. 

University of California Davis Study Note : Tetraethyllead - Toxicity

Kraus called it "a creeping and malicious poison". Midgley also wrote to an oil industry engineer that poisoning of the public was "almost impossible, as no one will repeatedly get their hands covered in gasoline containing tetraethyl lead - it stings and burns... 

Promiscuous Association Between: GM Research Corp. and the Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh. +Kettering Lab.

Apparently unconvinced by Midgley's December 30, 1922 response to their inquiry, the PHS decided that an investigation was necessary and contacted the Bureau of Mines. Midgley and Kettering were familiar with the Bureau of Mines petroleum experts based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had also asked them to perform a health study of Ethyl gasoline around the same time. Bureau employees felt that the agency was in an uncomfortable position. In June, 1923, A.C. Fieldner, a bureau chemist, said that an investigation would be inadvisable: "The relations of the Bureau of Mines with some of the gasoline interests or motor interests will be imperiled regardless of our decision in the matter. The results promise to be so doubtful, the investigation will take so much time and cost so much money and chances for getting into trouble with some commercial interests are so great that I believe it is inadvisable to take on this investigation."

Yet in September, 1923, an agreement was finalized between GM Research Corp. and the Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh. The bureau agreed to Kettering's demand that it "refrain from giving out the usual press and progress reports during the course of the work, as [Kettering] feels that the newspapers are apt to give scare head- lines and false impressions before we definitely know what the influence of the material will be.

Deceptive Marketing : "Kettering and the bureau were so worried about the press that all official correspondence used the trade name Ethyl rather than the word "lead "