On February 2, 1923, "Ethyl" gasoline went on sale at a Dayton, Ohio service station. The Ethyl brand gasoline promised to eliminate a persistent detonation problem with engines of the time known as knock. Two solutions to this problem were found that included additives to gasoline. One solution was to add ethyl alcohol and the other added tetra ethyl lead (TEL) to the gasoline. Both solutions improved engine efficiency, but there were two important differences. Ethyl alcohol was expensive, lead is cheap. Lead is a known toxic substance and ethyl alcohol burns up with the gasoline.
Cheap settled the argument. GM and Standard Oil began to market the Ethyl brand gasoline nationwide. Leaded gasoline was sold in the United States from 1923 to 1986, when it was ultimately banned from sale. The widespread use of lead in gasoline is considered one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Find out what else occurred on this day in science history