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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Leaded gas lowered America's IQ, and we're still using it

There have been dozens of silver-bullet solutions to the automotive industry's problems over the years. However, once manufacturers, the public, and the government realize that some solutions not only fail but perpetrate the same toxic phenomenon, they take swift action. Just kidding. Regulatory bodies are infamous for moving at an ambulatory pace when it comes to managing toxins.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/leaded-gas-lowered-americas-iq-and-were-still-usi...
247 REPLIES 247
BMD4800
Engineer

I served a term at the County Level.  Et tu?

Oldroad1
Gearhead

Couldn't do any worse or be any less stupid.
at7000ft
Pit Crew

The only way leaded avgas will go away is for the FAA/EPA to declare a date in the future where leaded fuel cannot be used (with no loopholes), exactly like they did with ADS-B requirement (Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast). The FAA in 2010 said by January 1, 2020 no one can fly in most controlled airspace without ADS-B equipment and it worked great. Avionics manufacturers came out with excellent and affordable ADS-B products knowing the demand would be there. (ADS-B equipment allows pilots to monitor traffic and weather instead of having to depend on ground controllers).

Waterboy1KHY80
Detailer

Simply pick a date soon that makes fuel operated planes illegal, just like our cars.
There, problem solved, Right?
OldFordMan
Advanced Driver

Now us oldest car junkies have to buy lead substitute!
Inline8OD
Technician

Life is so cruel.   Such hardship.    We've been using Redline Lead Substitute in our Packards, Cords,  Fords,  Cads for decades.   It uses benign sodium instead of the vile neurotoxin of tetraethyl lead.

  Ever seen the thick glop on the bottom of an oil pan from a car long run on leaded gasoline?   Old Fords and everything else, tens of millions of them, ran just fine on Amoco, which was always unleaded, through the late '20s and beyond.

GRP_Photo
Technician

I'd never heard of Redline, so I checked it out. The maker says "for racing, marine, or off-road use only."
Inline8OD
Technician

That's just to get around a minor statute.  Any NAPA store carries Redline Lead Substitute, as do most other car part emporiums.  We like NAPA because they cater to the old car crowd, and in general, carry higher quality; for example Echlin ignition points instead of Blue Streak, the latter part plastic.

BMD4800
Engineer

So, you are good with the combustion of metallic salts, but not lead?   Seriously?!   

Sodium - okay, let’s set aside the 1/4-1/3 impact upon VSR compared to TEL, what about those cool low melt point eutectics, soft alloy wear, reactivity, plus, well I’m sure you know this … as by product of combustion - NaOH.   Sodium Hydroxide.  Such a lovely little respiratory irritant. 

 

Phosphorus - intake valve wear/erosion.  Organic-Phosphate emissions…yummy!

MMT- it’s all good, except for the Parkinson’s like symptoms after high exposure.  Sweet!!

 

Why lead?  Because it works and the alternatives are a different type of emissions problem. 

BMD4800
Engineer

Race gas or vintage from VP.   No one cares.  It is so small and insignificant.  

drhino
Technician

Hey, I was born in 1961 and I’m fine.

Wait, was was I talking about?
Eddie1
Intermediate Driver

I remember a movie called Forbidden Planet and there was an advanced civilization called the Krell that built amazing things. The Krell of today are the Chinese. They have built engineering marvels such as bridges, enormous dams, long underground tunnels, high speed trains while we take selfies and watch Wheel of Fortune. Lead may or may not be why we are dumbed down and getting dumber but dumb we are and , sadly, its not going to get any better folks. Oops! The Simpsons are on now. Gotta go!
Inline8OD
Technician

Good points. The Chinese had public lending libraries a thousand years ago, invented gunpowder.

Among our nation's lowest ebbs were the various Asian exclusion acts, certainly the War II Japanese-American internment camps.

   Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is a fascinating work, but the very who most need to read it are content with their Fox "News" and  tawk radio bigotry.

Eddie1
Intermediate Driver

Oh God! The internment of Japanese America! These were American born ! What happened to their rights as Americans?? The only rights they had were..." Right this way folks ! Into the camps you go." 😞
BB66Vett
Intermediate Driver

There are many small family farms that regularly use tractors that were built in the 50's and 60's that require leaded fuel. Gas that has ethanol in it is the death pill for marine engines and 2 cycle chainsaws and weed whips. After losing the powerhead on a $750. chainsaw the factory service man said it was the regular fuel I was using that caused the failure and recommended marine fuel or aviation gas.
Bdgr92
Pit Crew

Interesting article, and a point well made. However, this suggests that the only source of lead exposure is fuel for internal combustion engines. It’s not. Even if the FAA completes its initiative to eliminate leaded fuels, people will still have lead exposure to things like fishing lures, diving weights, lead shot, pipes, etc., etc. Fuels are not a panacea for this problem.
Inline8OD
Technician

But those items must be consciously handled, and not endemic.

Mike56
Pit Crew

Hey what about MBTE?
GRP_Photo
Technician

Poisons the water.
TG
Gearhead

As an owner of a lead fuel vehicle, I was surprised to find that leaded fuel is still available considering the amount of money I pay for lead substitute (about 5 bucks a tank). Then I read along and read that it is restricted to recreational aircraft. How much annual consumption are we talking about here? It can't be a lot
TG
Gearhead

The other thing not factored into this discussion is the amount of lead water pipe still in use today - including on the supply side. If you really want to take a realistic step to reducing lead concentrations, there are probably better areas to concentrate your efforts
https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/07/19/report-650000-lead-pipes-still-carry-water-in-ohio-2nd-mos...
GRP_Photo
Technician

I quit flying about 18 years ago. At that time, AOPA claimed that the average usage was between 25 and 50 hours per year. The most I ever put on my Maule in one year was about 125 hours. She burned 8.6 gallons per hour.
BMD4800
Engineer

I probably burn around 40-60 gallons of leaded fuel per vehicle, per year.  Now I mix it, with pure 94 octane unleaded gasoline or 89-91 octane pump if I will be draining the tank.   I’ll burn that in the lawnmower. Ethanol added  fuel absorbs water rapidly and degrades.   

RobertMiller
Pit Crew

Let's start with, "Lead was actually a fuel substitute when first brought to market." No, lead was NEVER a fuel substitute, tetraethyl lead (not elemental lead) is a fuel additive that economically increases octane rating when added in tiny quantities to lower-octane gasoline). Next misleading statement: "Engines run more efficiently and make more power when the octane rating of their fuel is higher." Again, not true. When the FAA removed the lower octane 80/87 aviation leaded fuel (2 grams of tetraethyl lead per gallon) and higher octane 100/130 (4 grams of lead per gallon), only 100 LL (low-lead at 2.2 grams per gallon) was left. The engines that were designed for 80/87 can run on 100 LL, but at increased expense and with lead fouling of the spark plugs and oil. They make absolutely no more power than they did on 80/87 fuel. It IS true that an engine can be designed to run more efficiently and make more power on higher-octane fuel, but simply adding octane to an engine not so-designed does not make any more power. There are several more errors in this article and no mention of the already FAA-approved SwiftFuel 94 UL already in use at several airports. Finally, the piston-engine general aviation fleet is tiny and the amount of elemental lead released into the atmosphere nearly immeasurably small. This is politics, not science. Yes, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is a slow-moving government bureaucracy, but it is charged with finding a substitute for 100 LL that is safe for ALL current flying aircraft, some with engines that predate World War II. The search for an unleaded substitute that meets ALL criteria has been going on for decades and is finally showing some solutions that really work, albeit at increased cost over already very-expensive 100 LL. My advice: do some real research before you write an article.
knickc
New Driver

I was very disappointed to see this article since it leaves everyone thinking that there's a huge amount of emissions from GA aircraft. So, to enlighten readers and the obviously ignorant editorial staff of this publication, Aviation fuel production in the US represents LESS THAN 1% OF TOTAL GASOLINE PRODUCTION! GAMI and another company called Swift have come up with FAA approved alternatives, and yes it's going to take a while to bring production up to satisfy the needs of the GA fleet, small as it is real terms, but it is happening. And in the meantime, as mentioned earlier, the emissions created are probably immeasurable. By the way I just looked at most of the comments to this and found no one involved in aviation answering this. I've been a pilot for 47 years, around the GA industry for my whole life, and an aircraft owner who is invested in the future of GA and all the ramifications of a fuel to replace 100LL, which I also whole heartedly endorse. Hopefully some of you will read this and become better informed about the harm GA doesn't do!
GLaing
Intermediate Driver

Wait. Oh no! Aren’t electric cars powered with batteries that contain…LEAD!
We are all gonna die!
GRP_Photo
Technician

Most are powered by lithium ion batteries.
BMD4800
Engineer

Also wonderfully green when burned.  

Oldroad1
Gearhead

G100UL may have the required octane for aircraft. It, however, does not have the top lubrication that Tetraethyl Lead provides aircraft engine's valve trains for safe reliable long term operation.
janedon
Advanced Driver

Interesting--I'm sure I'm Not the only one who thought leaded gas was gone completely
KlutchSS566
New Driver

Look guys - I'm not an aviation guy, but the aircraft engines you are all discussion are not "opposed piston" engines. Opposed piston engines have 2 pistons in a common cylinder that come together to form the combustion chanber - also have 2 crankshafts. I spent 3-1/2 years in a diesel-electric submarine working on them (look up Fairbanks-Morse 38ND 8-1/8 engine).
GRP_Photo
Technician

I've never heard anyone call them "opposed piston", but the correct term is "horizontally opposed." That's the "O" in the engine type (eg. Lycoming O-320). Just like an oversized Beetle engine.
oldcardoc
Intermediate Driver

I was born in the later 40's and have siphoned more leaded gas from tanks than I can remember and it hasn't bothered me not once. Admittedly it was a bad day when your lungs hurt from the smog but the raw gas didnt do squat .so to say it would kill you and do brain damage is something of a mystery to me because I'm still around and I guess I didn't get the memo about it being a killer LOL Leaded gas was used for higher octane ratings and used primarily in aircraft back in the day till cars were using a higher performance engine that needed it for the valves and to increase octane ratings to meet the higher compression ratios. Other factors are also included to raise octane but lead kept the valves lubricated just like Sulphur was used in diesel to lubricate the injection system. Sulphur was a real problem in fuel emissions and lead was also a contributing factor for bad air but in reality ,was it? we still can get leaded fuel for off road vehicles and some aircraft engines still need it for the very reason it was used . I have found just plane dust in the atmosphere does more lung damage than all the fuel being burnt and most of it comes from Africa on the wind and will really mess you up if you have breathing problems . Global warming is another myth that is being used by the powers to be to control the industry so they can get their agenda through and most people are taking it to heart that gas and diesel are killing the planet, LOL that's the myth. The planet cleans the atmosphere better than any device we know of and a Volcano can spew out more damaging harmful toxic gases than all the cars and trucks and factories on the planet . Unleaded gas with the new technology has all but left people dead on the streets and it's like saying I have lung cancer but I never smoked or drank and I lived in the mountains all my life . What happened? From a news article taken in 1910 . Before leaded gas and factory pollution.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

The FAA has regulated itself into a corner, I deal with the FAA with my job and the way they want to pigeonhole everything to make a nice neat container, and unfortunately it really does not always work the best, but that is what the regulations are for. The problem is that everything and anything with the FAA pretty much falls under the umbrella of "Safety." What does that mean exactly? Basically it has been proven safe in the past, therefore we cannot deviate from the specifications. As we know, Lead coats parts in the engine, and without that coating parts can burn up. Here in-lies the biggest problem with modifying aircraft outside of their type design: If there is an issue with the engine, you cannot pull over to the nearest cloud rest stop and check under the hood... You say, just change the valves like we do in cars. But to install different valves in the engine which are not essentially identical to the original Valves, you might need an STC. Every certified aircraft has a Type certificate, if you change almost anything you would need an STC which is a "Supplemental Type Certificate", and things get complicated.
Casey
Intermediate Driver

Thanks, Kyle. I enjoyed this read.
When you've seen the ill effects of lead poisoning on children it is no wonder IQ is lessened. Tough group. Aren't you glad you didn't bring up vaccinations?
Richard
Pit Crew

Leaded fuel is still around because it is stable in long term storage.
Ethanol is Satan personified. It creates more problems than it solves. Plus it takes more energy to produce a gallon of it than it produces. Thanks, Farm Lobby.
Non- ethanol fuel is what I use in my Jaguar E and all my motorcycles.
928gts
New Driver

The ignorance of this subject is apparent in this article. For one thing there is no reliable replacement for 100 LL yet. That's why the FAA has not certified a replacement.
csmith430
New Driver

Just wondering - does the diminished IQ from lead poisoning have anything to do with the current political climate?
JaketheSnake
New Driver

For context, there were 204,980 aircraft of all types registered in the US in 2020. Of these, commercial aircraft were 5,882. www.statista.com. Flightaware has determined that on average, approximately 12,000 aircraft are flying worldwide at any given time. Turbines don't use 100LL--I'd have to spend some time digging to . Compare this to the approximately 276 million registered vehicles in the US, 6 million road vehicles in the Los Angeles area alone. Aircraft don't end up in crushers after a few years like autos do--there are many 50 year-old planes flying safely. Should lead be phased out? Yes. Is it a huge problem? Dumbasses are a problem in the US, but attributing the dumbass plague to a few hundred sources moving two miles up is sensationalism.
acy76
Pit Crew

I find this article fascinating. For those interested, Mother Jones ran a fascinating piece closely related to this topic entitled "Lead: America’s Real Criminal Element", easily found via search engine.

I also find it useful to remove the concept of IQ, which is a test result (and a fallible one at that, rife with potential biases), from the well-documented toxicity of lead and its effects on the human body when considering this material.
Inline8OD
Technician

Right. Mother Jones is terrific,  ranks with National Geographic and the New Yorker for rigorously vetted, indepth features.

TA76
Advanced Driver

So because small private airplanes use leaded fuel we are all lead damaged? Remember jets never have used leaded fuels. I think this article is to simplistic and making arguments that are very debatable due unsupported "facts".
anatolyarutunof
Intermediate Driver

you think lead in fuel is the ONLY thing reducing folks' iq? chemicals everywhere! depleted soil=lower nutrient levels in crops.
Inline8OD
Technician

BTW,  thanks Kyle for a good article.  It's telling the unrequited testosterone you unleashed, judging by some of these feverishly contorted, out-of-context comments.   But we noticed Aaron Robinson's interesting article on leather auto upholstery also brought out such brickbats.

    Thank you, sir, and thank you, Hagerty.

Boeingpilot
Intermediate Driver

Wow, never thought Hagerty would go for a 'hit' piece. Now, as they say, the rest of the story.... There's been a lot of controversy over leaded aviation fuel. San Jose,CA, in a thinly veiled attempt to close Reid-Hillview Airport by claiming a clear and present danger from lead poisoning. Unfortunately, the facts don't bear this out (see https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/06/11/study-finds-no-elevated-lead-levels-in-reid-hillview-airports... and https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-airport-lead-levels-are-average-despite-alarm/)

The author also doesn't cover some of the other alternatives. Many airplanes can obtain supplemental type certificates (permission) to use automotive no-ethanol unleaded premium. The big issue is that a lot of airports won't let you bring your own fuel in (safety); and when the tried to add pumps for that, the insurance people said, no way. (Ironically, when I started flying some 40 years ago, we had three types of fuel available -- 80 octane, 100 octane and Jet-A; so many airports did have the infrastructure for multiple grades of aviation fuel)

There is also a drop in alternative available immediately for lower performance aircraft, UL94 (https://www.swiftfuelsavgas.com/). It does still have the problem that you need a third pump, and a separate distribution channel. But as far as price, right now (at the time of this writing) is the same price as the 100LL at the same airport. Since 100LL still has too much lead for lower performance engines (think lead fouling), I try to run this as often as possible in my Cessna to keep maintenance issues at bay.

The biggest issue -- It's not totally unknown for 100LL to be sold (illegally) to car enthusiasts who want or need higher octane. This is probably the closest cause of lead from internal combustion engines getting near people.
Oldpilot
New Driver

Mr. Smith knows zero about aircraft engines. Aircraft engines need some lead to prevent detonation. They produce power at much lower rpm than automotive engines and are ran at much higher power settings. A car can cruise at 25% power easily while an aircraft at cruise will be at 70% or more.
In 2021 the USA used 134.83 billion gallons of auto gasoline and 0.18 billion gallons of AV gas.
At 2 grams of lead per gallon spread over the entire continental US plus Alaska and Hawaii that amount of TEL is so insignificant as to be unmeasurable.
The FAA will not remove it because they are responsible for passenger safety, not some tree huggers stupidity.
Commerical, multi engine, instrument. A&P
lavapirate
Intermediate Driver

Paul: Did you eat a lot
of paint chips when you were a kid?

Tommy: Why?
brb
Instructor

General aviation in Costa Rica runs on 93 octane mo-gas. Has for decades. There is no 100LL available there. There is no need for it here. Replacement cylinders for old engines contain hardened valves and seats. Needing lead to protect valves is no longer necessary. A few airports sell high octane, non-enthanol mo-gas in the States. There needs to be more.