Aug. 30 (UPI) — The United Nations Environmental Program on Monday announced the official global end to the era of leaded gasoline, and said the development puts an end to a “major threat to human and planetary health.”
The U.N. agency said the era came to a close when Algeria stopped selling leaded fuel at stations in July.
Leaded fuel, which contains the additive tetraethyllead to increase performance, was sold for decades around the world but most countries stopped selling it years ago.
“By the 1970s, almost all petrol produced around the world contained lead. When the U.N. Environment Program began its campaign to eliminate lead in petrol in 2002, it was one of the most serious environmental threats to human health,” the agency said in a statement.
“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.”
The UNEP estimated that the end of leaded gasoline will have wide-ranging effects, including the saving of more than 1.2 trillion lives and $2.45 trillion per year.
Most developed countries prohibited leaded gasoline, or petrol, by the 1980s, but developing nations continued to use it until more recently.
“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,” the agency added.
The agency said it will continue to campaign against vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
“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,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.
The agency said the global transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden set a goal for half of all new vehicles made in the United States to be electric in some form by the end of the decade.