Energy Environment

End of the road for leaded petrol, ends health hazard: UNEP

Leaded petrol causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also affects the development of the human brain.

Nairobi: When service stations in Algeria stopped providing leaded petrol in July, the use of leaded petrol ended globally. This development follows an almost two decades long campaign by the UNEP-led global Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV).

Since 1922, the use of tetraethyllead as a petrol additive to improve engine performance has been a catastrophe for the environment and public health. By the 1970s, almost all petrol produced around the world contained lead. When the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) began its campaign to eliminate lead in petrol in 2002, it was one of the most serious environmental threats to human health.

2021 has marked the end of leaded petrol worldwide, after it has contaminated air, dust, soil, drinking water and food crops for the better part of a century. Leaded petrol causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also affects the development of the human brain, especially harming children, with studies suggesting it reduced 5-10 IQ points. Banning the use of leaded petrol has been estimated to prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year, increase IQ points among children, save USD 2.45 trillion for the global economy, and decrease crime rates.

“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Overcoming a century of deaths and illnesses that affected hundreds of millions and degraded the environment worldwide, we are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.”

  • UNEP