The Age of Lead: Metropolitan Change, Environmental Health, and Inner City Underdevelopment in Baltimore

Fredrickson, Leif, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

In the Age of Lead, I use lead hazards as a case study to explore the relationship between metropolitan development, environmental health and social inequality. I argue that lead-related technologies helped drive metropolitan development, and that metropolitan development affected the size and distribution of lead hazards. Suburbanites and suburban development benefited from lead-related technologies, such as lead piping, lead-solder, lead-acid batteries and leaded gasoline. These benefits were often not shared by those in the inner city. Moreover, many of the pollution externalities of these technologies were foisted onto the residents of the inner city. This was particularly true of leaded gasoline used by suburban commuters. But the production and recycling of other lead products, such as lead-acid batteries, was also concentrated in the inner city, and so was the pollution from these products. In addition, suburbanization increased lead hazards in the inner city by accelerating housing deterioration, which exacerbated lead paint hazards. Some suburbanites even benefited more directly from this housing deterioration through their profitable ownership of slum housing in the inner city. Suburbanites, meanwhile, were able to carve out more environmentally healthy environments on the metropolitan periphery. These dynamics were self-reinforcing. For example, automobile pollution concentrated in the inner city pushed more people to move to the suburbs, which created more automobile pollution in the inner city when those suburbanites commuted.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
lead, metropolitan, environmental health, pollution, baltimore
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