Every minute of every day the sky over America is being doused with lead, a toxic metal that is being burned in ‘avgas’, aviation gas, the fuel that powers most piston-driven aircraft (i.e. anything with a propeller).
571 tons in total are dumped into the air over our heads on a yearly basis only from aircraft, informs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
‘Lead and Halogen Contamination from Aviation Fuel Additives at Brackett Airfield’ is the name of a scientific paper which describes how X-Ray Fluorescence instrumentation was used to analyze lead, bromine, and chlorine content in avgas liquids. The results obtained from those analyses showed that avgas contains the following:
- Chlorine – 605.2 ppm
- Bromine – 42.6 ppm
- Lead – 48 ppm
Lead belongs to the group of highly toxic heavy metals that lead to bone diseases, cancer, and brain damage. Chlorine is an element with highly-reactive properties and very strong oxidative effects. Both of these elements are being sprayed every day into the air above our skies, and there is no excuse for that.
Other sources show that 964 tons of lead is being released into the air.
How much lead is being ‘chemtrailed’ across America due to aviation fuel?
The General Aviation News claims that nearly 681,000 gallons of avgas were burned on a daily basis in 2013.
The avgas weighs about 6 lbs per gallon, which means that more than 4 million pounds of avgas is being burnt on a daily basis, or more than 1.8 million kilograms of avgas.
Considering the fact that avgas contains 48 ppm lead, it becomes clear that each kilogram of avgas contains 48 milligrams of lead. If you multiply this number with the 1.8 million kilograms of avgas that are being burnt every day, you will get the info that avgas fuel emits 86.4 kilograms of lead on a daily basis in the skies over our country. On a yearly basis, it is 31,536 kilograms of lead that are being dumped directly into our air, and that falls down onto the soils we farm, the rivers, the lakes, the streams, the oceans, the forests, the children’s playgrounds, the cattle ranches, etc.
According to the National Emissions Inventory, lead emissions are even higher than we just calculated above. An NIH report says that piston-engine aircraft are the main source of lead emissions in the United States, emitting 57 percent of the 964 tons of lead put into the air in 2008, according to the latest figures from the National Emissions Inventory.
Small aircraft pilots dismiss the problem
There are some pilots who dismiss this problem completely. David Freed, Air & Space Magazine columnist says that he is hooked on lead. Maybe not the same as junkie is hooked on drugs, but he is still hooked. David is a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist. He explains how happy he gets when the engine of his four-seat, 48-year-old Piper Cherokee runs smoothly when this tetraethyl lead is added to the aviation fuel.
He continues explaining that the clean, lead-free fuel might make him unable to afford to fly, as these are times when the fuel prices continue to rise and the FFA airworthiness directives require a lot of money, usually for safety-related modifications. He wonders if a government-mandated switch to lead-free fuel will ultimately break the bank, leaving the pilots with little resources and forced to quit flying and to sell their airplanes.
Even though well aware of the fact that lead is a hazard for the public health, in his article David says that his airplane contributes virtually nothing to the problem. He does not see the exhaust from his airplane’s 180-horsepower engine really that considerable threat for the health of the nation. As he says, his aircraft is not that big of a factor in all this, but in a collective sense, the combination of all piston-driven aircraft flown by pilots like Freed makes a huge issue nationwide. Lead is being emitted into the skies of America mostly due to the avgas emissions.
David Freed is also a writer who has won a Pulitzer Prize and who has written the Cordell Logan aviation mystery novels. As we see, this man is an intelligent person and an excellent writer, nearly certainly a likeable guy and a valuable contributor to society in numerous ways, like as an investigative journalist. For instance, he wrote an 8,600-word expose to The Atlantic which gives details on the way FBI pursued the wrong suspect in a string of anthrax murders after 9/11. Apparently, this type of investigative journalist is the one likely to be supported in the mainstream media – as he belongs to the people who ask real question and search for the truth. We would like to motivate him to reconsider the importance of the aviation industry getting the lead out of the fuel and thereby out of our sky. Thoughtful and intelligent people like him are very necessary for us to lead us if we want to achieve something, like lead-free avgas for example.
Here is a chart from the EPA which shows that avgas is the number 1 source of lead emission. The second place goes to the industry, while the third foes to the power plants fired by coal (electric generation).
Lead Emissions by Sector, 2008
You probably wonder where all this lead ends up. A great part of it ends up in the food we consume, of course, because plants absorb lead from the soil and grazing animals eat and concentrate toxins from plants. This explains why dairy products and milk often contain more lead than raw grass. If you run atomic spectroscopy tests on the food we consume, you will find lead in so many products, including grasses, cacao, pet treats, protein products, etc.
If some of you like flying airplanes, we suggest that you do it by burning unleaded gasoline. It is not good to streak across the sky dumping toxic heavy metals into the atmosphere, especially because we all want to live in a society which can develop cleaner food with lower amounts of heavy metals. Moreover, we would all want someday to see an enormous breakthrough in battery power density that could maybe result in electric airplanes (as much as impossible it seems to you today, this would be possible with at least a 1000-fold increase in battery power density. Nevertheless, people are pretty good at achieving remarkable breakthroughs, so there is no reason for us not to be optimistic on this topic as well. We believe that one day scientists will find a far better way to store power than today’s old-school chemical batteries).
Lead was removed from automobile gasoline by the EPA
Are you familiar with the fact that lead was being added to regular gasoline for many decades in the past? Yes, lead does help the engines to run smoother and improves the gas mileage, but it results in millions of pounds of lead being released directly into the environment, raising the levels of lead contamination of the soils and causing people to breathe in lead with every breath they take.
During those ‘lead years’ the IQ of the kids in America significantly dropped, and it was restored again to higher levels once the lead was removed from gasoline. Nowadays, the use of lead into gasoline and its burning into vehicles is forbidden by law.
Nevertheless, it is still perfectly legal for people to burn this heavy metal in aviation fuel. The avgas is actually one of the few fuels in the United States that contain lead, which makes it the single greatest source of lead emission in the country. This is confirmed by the National Institutes of Health. People should be worried about their health and should make a contentious effort to finally eliminate the lead from the avgas – the aviation and the petroleum industries have been trying to do this for more than two decades, to no avail.
Here is how the NIH describes the harmful effects of lead:
It is well known that lead is neurotoxin, especially harmful to the children, as they are the most vulnerable group who are typically exposed when they ingest or inhale the dust in their own homes, which also contains lead. Lately, it has been proven that lead can do some serious harm to the cognitive and behavioral functions, such as the attention, the intelligence, and the motor skills. These damages have been found in kids who have been found to have much less lead in their blood than previously thought to cause harm, and now, this have made it clear that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
When will we decide to stop poisoning ourselves?
We can conclude that as long as we keep burning lead in avgas, we are going to keep suffering from its consequences on our health. We are all witnesses that the academic achievements of the children in America are overshadowed by the ones of the children in India, Korea, or China, and that the continued dumping of IQ-damaging lead into our air seems absurd. The things that are being released in the sky fall onto the soil and eventually make their way into the food supply, meaning that burning lead in airplanes sooner or later results in us eating lead on our dinner plates.
Let us see the big picture and realize how big of a problem this is. Maybe it is not the greatest problem we have, because there are the high-altitude EMP weapons which are far greater threat to us all (especially with North Korea playing around with long-range ballistic missiles carrying with nuclear weapons).
This is a time when war seems to be breaking out everywhere, especially in the Middle East, and the banking system seems it is going to collapse, so it is hard for people and society in general to concentrate on the more subtle (but chronic) long-term problems such as lead in avgas. Nevertheless, this problem can be solved with a phased switchover to mogas (lead-free fuel). The FAA and the EPA should get together and work on this issue in order to clean up our aviation industry and eliminate the lead from our skies.
Is it too much to ask that we stop releasing toxic lead into the air we breathe and above our own heads?
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