Absurdly, he was excluded from a 1971 National Research Council panel appointed to investigate the dangers of atmospheric lead poisoning even though he was by now unquestionably the leading expert on atmospheric lead.
To his great credit, Patterson never wavered or buckled. Eventually his efforts led to the introduction of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and finally to the removal from sale of all leaded gasoline in the United States in 1986. Almost immediately lead levels in the blood of Americans fell by 80 percent. But because lead is forever, those of us alive today have about 625 times more lead in our blood than people did a century ago. The amount of lead in the atmosphere also continues to grow, quite legally, by about a hundred thousand metric tons a year, mostly from mining, smelting, and industrial activities. The United States also banned lead in indoor paint, "forty-four years after most of Europe," as McGrayne notes. Remarkably, considering its startling toxicity, lead solder was not removed from American food containers until 1993.
As for the Ethyl Corporation, it's still going strong, though GM, Standard Oil, and Du Pont no longer have stakes in the company. (They sold out to a company called Albemarle Paper in 1962.) According to McGrayne, as late as February 2001 Ethyl continued to contend "that research has failed to show that leaded gasoline poses a threat to human health or the environment."