Looking Back at the History of Lead

Although lead has been remarkably important in the rise of modern civilization and society, it’s also an insidiously toxic metal that has caused untold sickness and death as long as it’s been used. The dangers of lead poisoning are well documented today, but concerns with lead-based paint and other lead-containing products continue to drive businesses and homeowners to perform lead testing and seek lead abatement services in San Francisco. But how lead come to pose such a risk to modern society? Consider this brief history of lead to find out.

Early Romans and the Dangers of Lead lead paint
Lead played a major role in the building of the great Roman Empire, including the vast network of piping that kept Rom and the provincial cities of the Empire supplied with water. However, lead also played a role in the downfall of Rome. The Romans were aware that lead could cause serious health problems, and yet they equated limited exposure with limited risk. What they didn’t realize, as the world would discover in the 20 th century, is that everyday low-level exposure to the metal rendered them vulnerable to chronic lead poisoning.

The U.S. Leads the World in Lead Consumption
Fast forward a few thousand years and the U.S. emerges as the world’s leading producer and consumer of refined lead. According to reports, by 1980 the United States was consuming approximately 1.3 million tons of lead per year, which represented roughly 40 percent of the world’s supply. Refined lead was used heavily in the automotive industry, and also as a paint additive. That’s why many homes and buildings that date back before 1980 are at a high risk of containing lead-based paint and other lead-containing materials.

Lead Protection Measures
As the science and medical communities made the public more aware of the dangers of lead exposure, the U.S. government finally took action to protect its citizens. In 1977, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissions banned lead paint in residential properties and public buildings, along with toys and furniture containing lead paint. Homes or buildings built before the ban took effect should be tested for lead-based paint by an environmental safety testing company in San Francisco.