Blanc de plomb
Histoire d'un poison légal
The history of a legal poison
Toxic substances are everywhere. They have invaded the air we breathe and the domestic space we live in. Food, packaging, textiles, cosmetics, paint… There is not a single area of everyday life that is free from suspected or confirmed poisons, carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.
To understand the reasons for our collective acceptance of this situation, the historian Judith Rainhorn has investigated white lead, which has been massively produced and used since the late 18th century to whiten paint that covers the walls of European cities. A poison for the workers directly exposed to it in their dusty workshops, lead pigment is today recognized as an environmental poison.
Like for asbestos, pesticides, phlalates or nanoparticles, social, industrial, scientific and political rationales have imposed their rhythms and requirements, making white lead a legal poison.
Judith Rainhorn est historienne, professeure à l'université Paris 1 Panthéon- Sorbonne et membre du Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains (CHS). Ses travaux portent sur l’histoire du travail, de la santé et de l’environnement des populations urbaines en France et aux États-Unis aux XIXe et XXe siècles.