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This Lead is Killing Us: A History of Citizens Fighting Lead Poisoning in Their Communities: Home

The message “lead helps to guard your health” responded to growing public concern over lead’s toxicity in industrial trades and paint products, as described by industrial health pioneer Alice Hamilton.

Ad placed by the National Lead Company, The National Geographic Magazine, November 1923

Courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine

During the 1960s and 1970s, environmental movements led to increased governmental action, including publications that warned parents of lead in homes.

Lead Paint Poisoning in Children...a Problem in Your Community? U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1973

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

Physician and public health activist Alice Hamilton published a landmark investigative report about lead poisoning faced by industrial workers. Her background as a pathologist provided the expertise to critique what she termed the “dangerous trades.”

Alice Hamilton, ca. early 1900s

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

Printing was a dangerous trade. Workers manipulated individual lead “slugs,” or pieces of metal used for spacing, with their bare hands. They were exposed to lead dust and fumes created by the printing machines.

Workers operate a linotype machine, Hygiene of the Printing Trades, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1917

Courtesy National Library of Medicine