In the beginning of Dr. Patterson's campaign, he was largely ignored by the public. He published an article called Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man, which attracted the attention of Robert Kehoe, who was considered an expert in studying the effects of lead on the body. Kehoe disagreed with Patterson by arguing that lead was a natural chemical in the body, and therefore only extremely high doses were harmful. This is unsurprising due to the fact that Kehoe was employed by Ethyl Corporation. Patterson denied this idea and wanted to prove that while certain lead levels in humans are typical, they are certainly not natural. Dr. Patterson and Kehoe faced off in hearings on the Clean Air Act of 1966, which was presided over by Senator Edmund Muskie. Patterson had previously contacted Muskie about his research and was asked by Muskie to speak at the hearings. It was at these hearings on the Clean Air Act that Clair Patterson's campaign was finally validated.
Muskie Senate Hearings
Patterson began his testimony by pointing out the obvious conflict of interest that was taking place in Kehoe's research. Patterson declared:
"It is not just a mistake for public health agencies to cooperate and collaborate with industries in investigating and deciding whether public health is endangered; it is a direct abrogation and violation of the duties and responsibilities of those public health organizations."
Kehoe made outrageous claims throughout the hearings with an unshakable confidence. He even stated that not the slightest increase in lead exposure to motorists since tetraethyl lead's introduction had occurred. This was clearly not the case. Dr. Patterson also made the important point that a person could suffer ill effects from lead without being lead poisoned. Muskie and other senators supported Dr. Patterson's claims over Kehoe's because Patterson's were based on painstaking research while Kehoe's were supported only by his extreme self confidence.
"The hearings established a new premise: that lead poisoning was not only a florid disease of workers, it could be an insidious, silent danger. The notion that lead poisoning was an all-or-nothing phenomenon was discredited and replaced by degrees of disease spread gradually across a continuum. Patterson had inserted the concept of the dose-response relationship into the debate." -Herbert Needleman