Lead pipes have been used to carry water from the time of Rome. By the 1920s, cities in the United States began to recognize that these pipes played a role in causing lead poisoning, and many began to ban their use. In response, the lead industry increased advertising, among other efforts, in order to engage with the public and establish that lead was an invaluable material.

The National Lead Company published an article in the National Geographic Magazine in November, 1923, entitled, "Lead helps to guard your health."

The article talks of lead as the unnoticed, unthanked protector of society.

"Lead concealed in the walls and under the floors of many modern buildings helps to give the best sanitation. Lead, therefore, is contributing to the health, comfort, and convenience of people today as it did when Rome was the center of civilization."

The National Lead Company cleverly connects lead both to the modern American and the ancient Roman. The former connection insists that lead is necessary in every American house. Associating it with being as revolutionary as "plumbing systems" means that lead is needed for sanitary purposes, and even suggests social stigma if it is lacking. The association with ancient Rome is one of legitimacy and endurance; the greatness of Rome goes hand in hand with lead products.

Using these strategies, the lead industry sought to portray lead as both scientifically favored and modern, as well as a longtime essential in every society.


Their successful efforts meant that pipes continued to be made of "lead," "lead paint," and "lead wool," causing many of the public health problems we see today.