Cosmos and The Importance of Environmental Regulation
Cosmos Episode 7 was the single best episode of Cosmos in my opinion, because it highlighted the best case for environmental regulation, but also the extent at which industry will fight regulation of harmful substances, but also go to great lengths to distort information. It is a lesson which remains critically important, because those same forces that resist environmental regulation then, still exist today. However, Patterson's efforts on lead regulation has been proven right over time, and as a result society is far healthier.
The reality is even after Patterson, we are still understanding the impact of lead poisoning on society. Research is showing it was likely responsible for the significant increase in violent crime during mid and late century America.
Patterson is a giant...the man who discovered the age of the earth, and saved and extended the lives of millions of lives. Very few figures in science loom as large, or as important. I applaud NDT for highlighting him on Cosmos.
I should note, this episode hit very close to home for me. I worked on the policy research for updating the consumer product safety law, which provided mandatory testing for children's products for toxic substances, but especially lead. In many ways I was following the footsteps of Patterson and his advocacy. What I, and a few others discovered to be a gap in the regulations as a result of Patterson and other advocates efforts on toxic and consumer product safety regulations. Even though lead may have been banned, it still made it into our consumer products for years through importation and lack of sufficient oversight of consumer products. Now it is required by manufacturers and retailers to test their products they stock for toxic substances in children's toys for compliance with toxic regulations in consumer products, including the ban on lead. Do you know what happened, the Chamber of Commerce went after this expansion of the law, even though the intent and benefits was clear. In some ways Patterson's battle with industry never ended.
This episode was special to me...it made me realize my own efforts with lead and other toxics in consumer products when I was involved in science policy meant I was stepping in the footsteps of a great. Even though I changed careers, it made me feel like both my education and efforts were worth the effort. It is not to often one can have the opportunity to refine the work as somebody as important as Patterson. Where policy and science met, I had that opportunity to contribute, and I am grateful.