Some died slow deaths. Others went into convulsions. Tens of thousands yet to be born were at risk of permanent damage.
Lead paint initially seemed harmless. The lead pigment that lent color and texture to the oil that formed its base made up as much as 70 percent of a can of paint. As little as a thumbnail-sized chip, though, could send kids into convulsions. But that didn’t mean anyone was doing anything. And there was a reason.
Since the 1920s, the lead industry had organized to fight bans, restrictions, even warnings on paint-can labels. It had marketed the deadly product to children and parents, spreading the lie that lead paint was safe. For decades, paint ads appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic, and other national magazines and local newspapers. Coloring books were handed out to children. The industry even sent Dutch Boy costumes to children on Halloween, and printed coloring books that showed children how to prepare it.
The lead industry even claimed that the problem was not with the paint but with the “uneducable Negro and Puerto Rican” parents who “failed” to stop children from placing their fingers and toys in their mouths.
(From The Atlantic)