Remember when cars used to give off disgusting clouds of lead-laden smoke? Planes still do that. Some of them do, at least — in particular, those nasty little planes that rich people fly because car traffic is for suckers. According to Scientific American, smaller planes now produce HALF of all the lead pollution in the air.

As might be expected, this pollution wreaks havoc on the health of anyone exposed to it. SciAm writes:

Some of the health effects of repeated exposure to lead include damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and red blood cells, and decreased function in the cardiovascular and immune systems. Lower IQ levels and learning disabilities can also result from lead exposure, especially in children, whose young bodies are more sensitive than those of adults. And scientists at the National Toxicology Program have concluded that lead and lead compounds are “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”

But it’s worth it to be able to get to your second house at the beach with all possible speed. Who cares about the 16 million Americans who live near airports where planes regularly dump lead into the air? Who cares that there are 3 million kids in schools in those areas? Never mind that, as SciAm reports, “70 percent of small planes could already be using unleaded avgas with no retrofitting needed.” Never mind that they’re already hard at work on small planes that run on solar power. Flying is about freedom, and if that doesn’t include the freedom to give children lead poisoning, then what is the American Dream even for?

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