A Brief History Of Gasoline: Better Things For Deader Living … Through Chemistry

jalopnik.com
6 min read
fairly difficult
How does a company grow so callous, so numb to and invested in death that it puts lead in gasoline?
As we will see throughout this series, the business of adding known deadly toxins like lead to an already dangerous product like gasoline would take a special kind of amorality and disregard for human life and the environment. America's new corporate form proved uniquely suited to such reckless commercial endeavors. Like Standard Oil, with its long years of ruthless acquisition and gross pollution, an even longer history of antipathy to human life prepared DuPont, which would come to control General Motors for more than half a century, for its next assault on the world's living things – the manufacture and marketing of leaded gasoline. Today, we look at the chemical giant's past and the essential prologue for great misdeed it provided.

People had been blowing things up happily enough for more than a thousand years before greatly expanded use of gunpowder during the 18th and 19th centuries arrived to catapult the explosive arts forward in dramatic fashion. Central to their development and expansion were the efforts of Eleuthére Irénée du Pont de Nemours, a French émigré to America. The organization he founded was to the low explosive which came to be known as black powder (a blend of charcoal, sulfur and nitrate, or saltpeter) and its many incendiary successor — up to and including atomic bombs — what John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil was to petroleum.

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Today we think of the enterprise Eleuthére founded as the progenitor of toxic "forever" chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, colloquially known as C8 and not to be confused with the 8th generation Corvette,) carcinogens pervasively used in Teflon, water repellant clothing and firefighting foam, and the subject lately of numerous lawsuits. But centuries before the slow, agonizing deaths their forever chemicals inflicted, famille du Pont were busy helping people kill people as quickly as possible.

Following a brief prison stay in France for his…
Jamie Kitman
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