The health effects of leaded fuel were first questioned in 1924 when five workers died at a Standard Oil refinery, but despite concerns, the lead continued to be added to gasoline everywhere until the 1970s. Today, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has officially announced that leaded fuel has been discontinued across the entire world.
After evidence emerged that adding lead to gasoline causes heart disease, cancer, and stroke, as well as delayed brain development in children, most high-income countries banned the fuel in the 1980s. Algeria was the last country to use leaded fuel, until this past July, when the country ran out and officially finalized the process of phasing out the dangerous fuel. Leaded fuel is also a toxic contaminant of air, soil, and water.
UNEP has been working with governments, private companies, and civic groups since 2002 to end the use of leaded fuel. The successful eradication of this substance offers hope for the adaptability of human societies.
Thandile Chinyavanhu, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, told BBC, “It clearly shows that if we can phase out one of the most dangerous polluting fuels in the 20th century, we can absolutely phase out all fossil fuels.”