The era of leaded petrol is finally over

The era of leaded petrol is finally over

Even Algeria, the last country in the world to use it, has run out of supplies. For the United Nations it is a historic date but it is not enough to protect the planet from the consequences of pollution

Petrol pump (Carl Nenzen Loven via Unsplash) Almost a century has passed since the first warnings about the dangers of leaded petrol for human health and the environment, but today this "toxic" era is finally over. This was announced in a press release by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), according to which Algeria, the last country to still use it, has run out of fuel supplies.

A gradual abandonment

In 1922 tetraethyl lead was added to vehicle fuel to increase engine performance. The danger posed by leaded gasoline became apparent to all when in 1924 dozens of workers employed in the refinery managed by the American giant Standard Oil began to suffer from convulsions, to be hospitalized and to die as a result of exposure to lead. However, until the seventies of the last century almost all gasoline sold in the world contained lead.

Gradually the great economic powers banned it, but for a couple of decades it remained a "hard core" of developing countries, which have still made extensive use of it. So much so that in 2002 the United Nations launched the campaign to promote its abandonment, with a great deal of cooperation between stakeholders to raise awareness on the problem and overcome the resistance of those who produce and traded in lead, investing in the updating of refineries.

The last countries to stop their dependence were North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan in 2016, followed by Iran and Yemen. Last to run out of stocks and to definitively cease the sale of the pollutant - the United Nations said - was Algeria.

More health, more environment

According to the Secretary General of the Nations Unite Antonio Guterres the elimination of leaded gasoline will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths a year from heart disease, stroke and heart attack, and will increase the IQ of children, damaged by exposure to lead. A 2010 study by California State University also estimates that it will save $ 2.440 billion (just over two trillion euros) to the world economy. Crime rates are also expected to drop.

Today, we celebrate the culmination of a global, decades-long effort to rid the world of lead in petrol.

This achievement will prevent more than 1 million premature deaths each year & protect children from exposure to lead.

Let's keep building a cleaner, greener future for all.

- António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 30, 2021

But the challenges are not over

L complete elimination of leaded petrol is great news for everyone, but the road to a healthier world is increasingly uphill. The latest report from the United Nations IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on climate change) reports an increase in the global temperature of the planet of 2.7 ° C in 2030 compared to the pre-industrial period, much anticipating the times compared to previous forecasts. br>
The transport sector, which alone is responsible for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, is set to grow to a third by 2050: although high-income countries are encouraging the transition to clean mobility, billions of new fossil fuel vehicles will be placed on the roads in the coming years. To these are added the used vehicles (and therefore of lower quality and environmental safety) that will move from the United States, Europe and Japan to middle and low income countries.

But there is still hope. "The fact that an alliance of governments, businesses and civil society backed by the United Nations has been able to successfully rid the world of this toxic fuel is testament to the power of multilateralism to move the world towards sustainability and a brighter future. cleaner and greener, ”said Inger Andersen, head of UNEP:“ We urge these same stakeholders to draw inspiration from this huge achievement to ensure that now that we have cleaner fuels, we also adopt standards for cleaner vehicles globally : the combination of cleaner fuels and vehicles can reduce emissions by more than 80% ".

" To be successful, we need international cooperation. Compromise. Solidarity. All guided by science ", concluded Guterres:" We concentrate all our efforts to make peace with nature. And let's build a cleaner and greener future for everyone ”.

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