LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 4, June 2011, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor: Anne Roberts

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Six countries still use leaded petrol. Why?

By Anne Roberts, Editor, LEAD Action News, based on the research paper by Danielle Cooper, LEAD Group Intern and Social Inquiry and International Law student, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), with additional research by Anne Roberts

Danielle Cooper has written a fully-referenced research paper, “Leaded Vehicular Fuel and the Global Effort to Eliminate Lead Poisoning”, in which she subjected the countries which still permit the sale of leaded petrol to a statistical analysis to find out which, if any, of seven likely factors could be shown to be preventing the countries from banning lead in petrol.

 For countries with leaded petrol for which indices had been compiled, the following likely factors were examined: degree of corruption, of democracy, press freedom, GDP per capita, economic freedom, ‘human development,’ and peacefulness within each country.

Creating an ‘index’ for a particular factor in a particular country means assigning the country a number, according to the degree which it manifests the presence or absence of some factor. Some measuring organisations used a high number to stand for a high level of a factor one would consider good – let’s say, for example, ‘trust’ (this is not one of the factors used); whereas other measuring organisations have used a low number to stand for a high level of something good.

Fortunately, this is not something that readers of this article have to think about – it’s all taken care of in Cooper’s academic article - but just to give a couple of examples: Transparency International (TI) have used a high score to indicate the lack of something bad (corruption). TI states ‘The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). These results indicate a serious corruption problem.’

Also counter intuitively, Reporters without Borders has used a low score to indicate a high level of something good, namely, press freedom.

Cooper analysed results from 2006 and 2010 in relation to the use of leaded petrol by each country, and also compared 2006 results with those of 2010 to see if the connection – if any – between the factors and the use of leaded petrol had changed –e.g., got stronger.

Correlation and Causation

Even though this article, whose starting point was Cooper’s, is not heavy with statistical analysis, there are two concepts which it is essential to explain, because they occur in the quotes taken from Cooper. These concepts are ‘correlation’ and ‘causation,’ and their verbs, ‘correlate’ and ‘cause.’ If something ‘correlates’ with something, it means it occurs together with it. It does not, by itself, prove that it causes the other thing. Further studies may be necessary.

‘In general, it is extremely difficult to establish causality between two correlated events or observances. In contrast, there are many statistical tools to establish a statistically significant correlation.’ (George Mason University, n. d.) A statistically significant correlation is one which does not occur by chance.

Note: ‘Determining whether there is an actual cause and effect relationship requires further investigation, even when the relationship between A and B is statistically significant…’ (Wikipedia)

Cooper: ‘The test of statistical significance was used to determine whether the relationship between lead status and the isolated determinant (evident in the frequency histograms and box plots of the datasets) had emerged by chance or was indicative of a direct relationship between the two variables.’

Unless noted otherwise, all passages quoted in this article are from Cooper’s research paper.

The following are the indexes used by Cooper

  1. The ‘Corruptions Perceptions Index’ compiled by Transparency International,
  2. The ‘Index of Democracy’ compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit,
  3. The ‘Press Freedom Index’ compiled by Reporters Without Borders,
  4. Per Capita Gross Domestic Product data compiled by the International Monetary Fund,
  5. The ‘Index of Economic Freedom’ compiled by The Heritage Foundation with the Wall Street Journal,
  6. The ‘Human Development Indicators’ compiled by the United Nations Development Programme ; and
  7. The ‘Global Peace Index’ compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Countries where leaded petrol is possibly still sold for road use

These are down to 6, according to a list compiled by Robert Taylor and Zac Gethin-Damon of The LEAD Group, and as at June 17, 2011:

Asia, including SE and NE Asia:

  • Afghanistan
  • Burma (official name ‘Myanmar’)
  • North Korea (official name ‘Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea’)

North Africa:

  • Algeria

Middle East:

  • Iraq
  • Yemen


National flags, left to right:

Afghanistan Algeria Burma (Myanmar) Iraq North Korea Yemen
Afghanistan flag   Algeria flag   Burma flag   Iraq flag   North Korea flag   Yemen flag


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