United Nations Declares Victory in Global Eradication of Leaded Gasoline

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Slusark, NRDC, 212-727-4592, kslusark@nrdc.org

United Nations Declares Victory in Global Eradication of Leaded Gasoline

New Report Shows Lead Levels in Blood Drop 90 Percent, Trillions of Dollars Saved Worldwide

NEW YORK - The United Nations Environment Programme today declared victory in a decade-long campaign, spanning more than 100 countries, to complete the elimination of  lead from gasoline worldwide. A new independent analysis also released today finds an annual $2.4 trillion in health, social and economic benefits from the global phase-out of leaded gasoline.

In total, more than 185 countries have now stopped adding lead to gasoline, with only six – Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar and Yemen – still using small amounts and expected to make the full switch over the next year or two.

The new study finds this saves more than 1.2 million people, including 125,000 children, from an early death each year and has resulted in far-reaching improvements in brain function in children, reductions in cardiovascular diseases, decline in criminality, and lower lead levels in blood by as much as 90 percent globally.

The phase-out effort was spearheaded by the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, which is hosted by UNEP, and of which the Natural Resources Defense Council is a founding member. NRDC has a long history of fighting to remove lead from gasoline – first spearheading the effort in United States in the 1970s and initiating a drive for a global phase-out in the 1990s.

Following is a statement from Peter Lehner, Executive Director of NRDC:

“This is a huge victory for children and families worldwide. Saying goodbye to lead in gas has opened the door to improved health and economic benefits for communities all across the globe.

“We live in a time when politicians and lobbyists make sport out of pitting the economy against public health. This study flies in the face of those petty politics. We don’t have to sacrifice our health or our children’s IQ for economic gain. In fact, choosing cleaner fuels over leaded gas has not only saved lives, but trillions of dollars.

“This success story is a testament to the power of strong partnerships and persistence. As a founder and active member of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles hosted by UNEP, NRDC is proud to be a part of the team who succeeded in ridding the world of leaded gasoline.

“But today’s announcement marks the triumph in one battle, not the entire war. We must continue the fight to make cleaner fuels available, and boost fuel efficiency around the world. And as we rid the world of one unnecessarily harmful fuel additive, we look to generate global momentum to clean up harmful diesel pollution that still shrouds so many cities worldwide.

“NRDC will continue the fight for safer, cleaner fuels across the board and around the world.”

BLOGS:

For NRDC blogs on leaded petrol phase-out and the future of clean fuels and vehicles, see:

  • Peter Lehner, NRDC Executive Director: “Global Phase-out of Lead in Gasoline Succeeds: Major Victory for Kids' Health” - http://bit.ly/tHGgFy.  

 

  • Rich Kassel, Director of NRDC’s Clean Fuels & Vehicles Project: “NRDC joins UNEP to celebrate global elimination of leaded gasoline--A huge step forward for children's health” - http://bit.ly/rvPQbk.

 

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BACKGROUND:

The new study released today, “Global Benefits of Phasing Out Leaded Fuel,” will be published in the Journal of Environmental Health in December 2011. It was written by Professor Thomas Hatfield, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the California State University, Northridge, with researcher Peter L. Tsai.

Its key findings show the near-global elimination of leaded gasoline has resulted in:

 

  • Health Benefits – More than 1.2 million premature deaths avoided per year (of which 125,000 are children) and blood testing has shown lead in blood levels dropping dramatically – 90 percent or more – particularly in cities.
  • Social Benefits – Research has indicated that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. Since the global phase-out of leaded gas there have been higher IQs and lower crime rates (58 million fewer crime cases reported).
  • Economics – $2.4 trillion (or 4 percent of global GDP) costs saved per year.

 

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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