An estimated 890,000 U.S. children have unhealthy levels of lead in their blood, mainly from living in old housing. Children who ingest chips or dust from lead-containing paint can suffer brain damage and learning disabilities. The eye-opening History of Lead Advertising chronicles decades of effort by the lead-paint industry to touch up its product's image. The online exhibit from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Environmental Health Center is based on a 2002 book and a 2000 exposé in the American Journal of Public Health.
The evidence that lead paint could poison children was strong enough by the 1930s that a host of countries banned or restricted its use for interiors. In the United States, however, the industry responded by pushing lead paints for homes, schools, and other public buildings and launching an advertising campaign to reassure the public, according to the site. The more than 40 ads displayed on the site are particularly disturbing, featuring happy children such as the iconic Dutch Boy of the National Lead Company. Even after lead's baneful effects were undeniable, the industry fought safety warnings on labels, the site notes. And lead was not banned from paints in the United States until 1978.