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After 99 years, the world officially eliminated the use of leaded gasoline as gas stations in Algeria stopped offering leaded fuel, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said this week, calling for an accelerated transition to zero-emission vehicles.
UNEP, a United Nations agency, led a two-decade campaign to end leaded gasoline, eliminating a threat to human health.
The world started using leaded gasoline in 1922, with tetraethyllead as an additive to improve engine performance.
However, tetraethyllead is linked to serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The compound also affects the development of the human brain, especially harming children. The use of leaded gasoline “has been a catastrophe for the environment and public health,” UNEP said.
Most high-income developed economies had already banned the use of leaded gasoline by the 1980s.
“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a statement.
“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,” Andersen added.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Lead in fuel has run out of gas – thanks to the cooperation of governments in developing nations, thousands of businesses and millions of ordinary people. Ending the use of leaded petrol will prevent more than one million premature deaths each year from heart disease, strokes and cancer.”
After eliminating leaded gasoline, the UN is now after all fossil fuel-powered mobility.
“We need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We need global mobility with no emissions at all,” Guterres said.
Despite the progress in eliminating leaded fuel, the world needs more action to reduce pollution from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, the UN said.
“We urge these same stakeholders to take inspiration from this enormous achievement to ensure that now that we have cleaner fuels, we also adopt cleaner vehicles standards globally – the combination of cleaner fuels and vehicles can reduce emissions by more than 80%,” UNEP’s Andersen said.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com