Several of the most popular social media trends to recently sweep social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have a common theme – looking back at the past and comparing it to today. Challenges like “10 Year Challenge!” “How it Went…How It’s Going” or “#LookbackFriday” are interesting to us because the contrast is stark, and oftentimes the “present” is brighter. (Wow, what was I thinking with that haircut? Those outfits… we seriously wore that in public?) Using a similar lens to view the environmental industry is also interesting – taking a look at just a few: mercury, lead, and asbestos are among a few elements that are viewed drastically differently today than a few decades ago.
To younger generations, it may seem unfathomable, but ask anyone above age 50, and there’s a good chance they can recall a time spent playing with liquid mercury. Before forehead scanning thermometers or even digital thermometers, glass thermometers manufactured with mercury were quite common. At room temperature, mercury is a liquid – from science classrooms to kitchen tables, mercury from a broken thermometer was an entertaining substance to play with, though today we know mercury is a neurotoxin and can have health impacts based on method and length of exposure.
Taking a look back at lead contamination in the United States, a large source of environmental lead contamination between 1950s through the 1980s was leaded gasoline. Since being phased out in the 1970s and completely banned in 1996, lead contamination from fuel is no longer a leading source of exposure in the US. The devastating health impacts of lead exposure are still of concern today, however – especially for children. Many regulations have been implemented to address assess lead levels, and lead paint and lead in drinking water remain areas that are still monitored, though largely lead poisoning has drastically decreased since the mid-1900s.
Lastly, asbestos is oftentimes misunderstood – a naturally occurring mineral with incredible fireproofing attributes, asbestos proved very useful for many applications, including building materials – ceiling tiles, theater curtains, floor tile mastics. When friable, however, asbestos can pose a serious threat to respiratory pathways. In the early ’40s, the fake snow for winter holiday village displays at “grandma’s house”, or even used on movie sets – the white fluffy snow occasionally used was actually pure asbestos. Today, the health effects of asbestos exposure are much more understood and are the subject of multiple EPA laws and regulations.
Looking back on our environmental past, these are just a glimpse at the many lessons learned over the past few decades. From tales to tell to younger generations, to long-term issues that will linger for decades to come, a lookback at our past can show us how far we have come, and also prepare us for the next lessons we surely will learn in the decades to come. Join our webinar on March 30, 2022 as we explore these and some additional lessons, how they impact business today, and what we can learn for the future.
#LookbackFriday Environmental Edition
Kids played with mercury? “Snow” used on a movie set was actually pure asbestos? Taking a look back at our past, there are many things we’ve learned over the years that have shaped our current behavior. Join us March 30, 2022 for a webinar looking at environmental lessons learned, how regulations impact businesses today, and what we can learn for the future.