Debunked: Irrefutable proof we are all being sprayed with poison [Lead in Avgas]

Mick West

Staff member
An article by Mike Adams conflates a real issue (lead in AV Gas) with a fake issue (Chemtrails). The title of the article is: "Irrefutable proof we are all being sprayed with poison: 571 tons of toxic lead 'chemtrailed' into America's skies every year", and is illustrate with this image of some persistent contrails:

The chemtrail theory is that the long white lines that form behind planes are some kind of toxic spraying. Hence the word "chemtrails" in the title, and the image of trails (normal persistent contrails).

The real issue here is the lead in Avgas (Aviation Gasoline), the fuel used by small prop planes in general aviation, this type of thing:

Avgas is NOT the same as jet fuel (kerosene) which is used by passenger jets, and is responsible for the contrails in the photo above. Contrails are clouds triggered by the extra water in jet exhaust. There is no connection between contrails and the lead in avgas - most simply because most planes that use avgas do not fly high enough to create contrails (except in unusual weather conditions), but also because the tiny amount of lead would not contribute to contrail formation.

Lead pollution is a genuine issue, and one that is being looked into very seriously by the EPA. However the hysterical language of Adam's article is seriously lacking in perspective. He notes a figure of 571 tons of lead emissions in 2008. This sounds like a lot, until you look at a historical perspective:

Look at the total levels in 1970, that's 220,000 tons per year. Now look at the levels for 1990 to 2005 - so small they had to make another graph. The level of lead emitted every year has decreased over 99%. Avgas was never a big part of this, and the reason lead was not phased out of avgas was simply cost/benefit. Avgas made up a tiny insignificant fraction of the total lead emissions back in 1970. It's only now that emissions are about 1/100th of what they were, that avgas has become a significant fraction. But it's a significant fraction of a very small number - in fact it you take it as a fraction of the 1970 total, it's just 0.25% (1/400th).

So while the lead emissions are vastly smaller than they were in the 1970s, that does no mean there is no cause for concern. However the focus is on localized effects - particularly around general aviation airports, such as Santa Monica airport. SMO is just a mile from my house, and the planes practicing their takeoff and landings fly just 1,000 feet above my house every day. There is certainly some local concern about the levels of lead in the air and soil right next to the airport, and this has been studied quite extensively by the EPA.

So small increases were found, within safe levels (the cut-off is 150 nanograms/m3, purple on the scale above), and only very close to the airport.

In summary, lead pollution is a real issue, but it's one that has mostly been dealt with. 99% of the emission sources are gone. Lead from avgas is a significant part of the the remaining emissions, but it's still very small compared to historical levels. High lead levels from avgas have only been detected directly adjacent to very busy small airport. The hysterical language of Adam's headline does not match the real nature of the problem.

And it's nothing to do with contrails, or the "chemtrail" theory. These planes generally don't leave visible trails.


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Senior Member
THIS story is about AvGas. ("AvGas" = an abbreviated way to say "Aviation Gas", or more simply, Aviation fuel. Because, airplanes that use reciprocating engines, AKA your CAR that you usually drive. Airplane engines are (generally) air-cooled, and the FUEL that is specified for any type of reciprocating piston-powered airplane IS highly regulated, for this and many other reasons.

Let's not forget that OTHER types of airplanes utilize different fuels. Turbine Fuel (aka "Jet-A1") is basically a form of kerosene. Yeah, JET engines LOVE it....but piston 4-cycle engines?? Not so much...THEY want something (like "gasoline") that atomitizes easily.

SORRY if this post is too basic to some just sometimes needs to be explained, for the benefit of those who have never dealt with engines (either 2-cycle or 4-cycle) beyond the "Start" switch (or keyed ignition switch) in their automobile.....

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
What prompted Mike Adams to write the piece - did he just find some old research on it and sensationalise or has the issue had exposure recently?
Some comments under his scare-piece add some perspective.


Senior Member.
3mg per square km is even less than .003 per square meter. 1 square km is 1000x1000 meters. So it's 0.00003mg per square meter. You probably get more lead than that in ordinary water or food contamination.

Mick West

Staff member
A mile away from the runway, and it's not detectable above background levels.

Another issue with leaded avgas is that when you preflight check the plane you drain a bit of fuel to check for water. This is commonly just discarded onto the ground. But even after decades of this, there was still no significantly raised level of lead detected in the ground at Santa Monica

Mick West

Staff member
Dane Wigington also takes issue with the Natural News Article, but for different reasons

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
Dane Wigington also takes issue:
Dane, the lead isn't there because the fuel is "dirty".


Mick West

Staff member
Dane, the lead isn't there because the fuel is "dirty".

And leaded fuel is probably responsible of <1% of all contrails, which, as mentioned above, come largely from jet engine planes (including turboprops), not piston engined prop planes. That's due to the altitude they fly, nothing to do with fuel.
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And leaded fuel is probably responsible of <1% of all contrails, which, as mentioned above, come largely from jet engine planes (including turboprops), not piston engined prop planes. That's due to the altitude they fly, nothing to do with fuel.
Well actually, Airport Teuge (where I come very often) are planning to replace Leaded fuel with bio fuel (MOGAS) to make it better for the environment.

See more, see the link! > (mainly in dutch)


Closed Account
Yep - typically aero engines are not designed to run on the particular mix of hydrocarbons in MOtor GASoline, so require approval to do so. IIRC 20 years ago here in NZ if you ran an engine on MoGas you then couldn't then run it on AvGas without a strip/rebuild.

however in recent times the supply of highly leaded AvGas has become undesirable from an environmental point of view, and a new generation of engines does not require AvGas and so MoGas is becoming more popular

This article notes the main differences -
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