Lead and Public Relations

In 1972, NBC News produced a segment on lead for one of its programs. It led to alarm from the lead industry, which arranged for representatives from the International Lead Zinc Research Organization, an industry group, to meet with NBC heads. This 2-page document goes over the main points they wanted to make.

The most striking of these is on the second page.


Here, the industry draws an analogy between lead and coffee/caffeine: too much of both, it argues, can kill you. Conversely, too little of each won't. By this logic, all toxic substances obeyed the same dose-response curve: more doses, more bad response.

Behind the scenes, of course, we know the industry -- at the time -- was aware of evidence that blood lead levels thought to be "low" were, in fact, quite dangerous. Today, the CDC has stated that no blood lead level is safe in children.

You can identify more enduring PR tropes like these in our Lead Papers collection, which will number around 70,000 documents when we are done uploading it this month.