For nearly 100 years, leaded gasoline for use in passenger vehicles has been sold around the world. Now, however, it was recently announced that the sale of leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles has finally come to an end.
Per an announcement from the UN Environment Program (UNEP), Algeria was the last country to sell leaded gasoline for use in passenger cars, finally putting a halt to the practice last month. The announcement follows a multi-decade campaign by the UNEP dubbed the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, which began in 2002 with the goal of ending the sale of leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles. When the campaign first launched, 117 countries still sold leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles.
Leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles was first patented in 1922, allowing engines to run a higher compression ratio, and thus produce more power. Leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles was commonplace around the world by the ‘70s, but the Clean Air Act eventually outlined a timetable to transition away from the fuel.
The United States began phasing out leaded gasoline in passenger cars throughout the ‘70s, and by 1996, leaded gasoline for use in new vehicles was banned outright. Notably, the fuel was still allowed for use in racing cars, aircraft, marine engines, and farm equipment.
The longterm health effects of leaded gasoline are numerous, and the impact of burning leaded fuel can linger for decades afterwards. Leaded fuel can result in lead poisoning, which is particularly harmful to children, affecting the brain and lowering intelligence while also slowing reflexes. The fuel has also been linked to cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
It’s estimated that a reduction in leaded fuel use has prevented over 1.2 million premature deaths annually.
Although leaded gasoline is no longer in use for passenger vehicles, the fuel is still widely used in the aviation industry, although it should be mentioned that the lead content in aviation fuels is lower than that in leaded gasoline for passenger vehicles. Additionally, phasing out leaded gasoline has resulted in greater adoption of diesel fuel as an alternative.