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How one brave man took on the world, and won


IF YOU have ever wondered why petrol used to contain lead before it was gradually phased out, you can thank one man, Professor Derek Bryce-Smith. His story shows how concerted but cool, evidence-based campaigning can eventually win the day, even when the whole world – or at least big corporations – marshal in all their might against you.

There are very close parallels here with those now drawing attention to the harm, serious illness and even death which has been caused by the mRNA vaccines and who are similarly being dismissed as cranks, conspiracy theorists and barmy anti-vaxxers. I am writing about the lead in petrol story now to give hope to those who, like Mike Yeadon, Andrew Bridgen, Robert F Kennedy Jr and others voicing the truth, are not giving up, even in the face of countless attempts at character assassination.

My own part in Derek Bryce-Smith’s story came about because, in 1986, I was working on a book with him about the many health benefits of nutritional zinc. Through a number of meetings at his laboratory at Reading University, where he was Professor of Organic Chemistry, I learned how lead additives in petrol came to be banned.

In the 1950s, Bryce-Smith, then a young researcher working at King’s College, London, wanted to get hold of some tetraethyl-lead, which was routinely used as an ‘anti-knocking’ agent in petrol, for an experiment he was conducting. Tetraethyl-lead improved the efficiency of vehicles, turning clunky engines into smooth-running ones.

Derek looked through all the chemical catalogues at his disposal, only to discover that tetraethyl-lead was absent from each one.  Wondering why, he wrote to the manufacturers, Associated Octel, and asked them to explain the reason. A representative from the company visited him to say that they did not normally make the stuff available, even to experimental chemists.

Why, Derek asked. The answer was that the stuff had dangerously poisonous qualities. ‘It attacks the brain,’ he was told. ‘If you had an accident with it you could be killed or left insane.’ The company’s representative added: ‘If this got out, the papers might try to get hold of the story and start saying we shouldn’t add it to petrol.’ The fact that King’s College was very near to Fleet Street, then the heart of the national newspaper industry, might well have had some bearing on Octel’s concerns.

Derek eventually persuaded the company to let him have some of the product after he explained the nature of the experiment he was working on – nothing to do with lead in petrol – but was warned: ‘If you spill any on the floor, you will have to take the whole floor up, and if you get any on your finger, it will be absorbed through the skin and drive you mad or even kill you.’

Until then, nobody, including Derek Bryce-Smith, had questioned the need for lead to be added to petrol. An American chemist, Thomas Midgley, had invented leaded petrol in the 1920s and insisted it was safe. All oil companies unquestioningly accepted this, and the production of lead additives for petrol became a highly lucrative worldwide industry.

But Derek got thinking – and researching. He discovered that the heavy metal lead could cause serious behavioural problems, particularly in boys, and could build up in the brain and blood. A visit to a Henley-on-Thames hospital for autistic children confirmed this, as the blood in these children was found to contain extremely high levels of lead.  Derek became the first person to draw attention to the health dangers of lead in petrol, and he was dismissed as a crank and scaremonger for his pains.

One reason for his marginalisation as a crackpot was because so many chemists, particularly academic researchers, depended on the oil industry to provide them with money for their research and experiments. Sounds familiar?

Derek persisted, at grave risk to his academic reputation, and eventually the first clinical studies were conducted in 1969. They showed beyond all doubt that lead had toxic impacts on humans, and could stay in the system for ever, causing kidney damage as well as other serious illnesses. Once in the brain, lead could also impair intelligence and cognitive abilities.

Finally, notice was taken of the dangers of lead in petrol and it began to be phased out in the 1970s. Perhaps older readers can remember some pumps having leaded petrol and others containing lead-free fuel. Gradually, ever more countries began to ban leaded petrol and the last country to do so was Algeria, in 2021. Today, you cannot buy leaded petrol anywhere – and this is largely due to the pioneering work of Derek Bryce-Smith.

Today, adding lead to petrol is recognised as possibly the greatest experiment in mass poisoning ever undertaken. But even when the evidence became overwhelming, Associated Octel fought and fought for lead in petrol to be retained. They tried their hardest to stop lead curbs eating into their profits, and they bribed at every turn, offering envelopes stuffed with £1,000 in cash, expensive holidays and other lucrative inducements to government officials. The company particularly bribed Iraqis to retain lead in petrol and were successful for many years.

Eventually Octel had no choice but to cave in. Yet to this day, the company, which has diversified, maintains that lead particles in food and water are far more dangerous to humans than airborne particles from petrol vehicles.

Our book, The Zinc Solution, explains how zinc can work to drive out toxic heavy metals from the system and improve all body functions.  It recommends a simple, effective and cheap solution to many disorders which cannot effectively be treated by Big Pharma. The acceptance of zinc supplements as an important aid to health is once again largely due to Derek Bryce-Smith’s work.

His story shows how one determined man can take on the industrial giants – and win. He had nothing to gain, financially or otherwise, from campaigning against lead in petrol.  Rather, he had everything to lose, as his professorial job was on the line.  But he persisted as he was determined for the truth to come out.

So I say to those now accumulating evidence of serious harm from mRNA vaccines, don’t give up. Eventually, the truth will dawn. It has to.

The Zinc Solution, by Professor Derek Bryce-Smith and Liz Hodgkinson, was published by Century Arrow in 1986. 

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Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson is an author and journalist.

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