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Time for ban on export of Australian lead for petrol

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“There are at least 16 countries*, including Burma, Jordan and North Korea, which have not yet phased out lead in petrol”, says Elizabeth O’Brien, President of The LEAD Group. The LEAD Group campaigns to eliminate lead poisoning in Australia and the rest of the world.

Ms O’Brien, who this week attends a 2-day meeting in Beijing of the UN Partnership for Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), will call for a new approach to the global problem of lead in petrol.

“Since 2002, the PCFV has been assisting the world’s petroleum industry and national governments to phase out lead in petrol for road-use,” says Ms O’Brien. “It’s time to put pressure directly on the UK, which permits the export of alkyl lead for road-use petrol, and on Australia, which permits the export of the lead to the UK which is used to make it.”

“Alkyl lead is an organic lead compound added to the unleaded petrol to make leaded petrol. Innospec (UK) is the world’s only producer of alkyl lead.”

Ms O’Brien said the World Health Statistics Quarterly has declared lead In petrol to be “The Mistake Of The 20th Century.” “In 1991, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) acknowledged the phase-out of leaded petrol as the priority global lead management issue.

“Put simply,” said Ms O’Brien, “lead in petrol is the most potent way to lead poison the largest number of people and to spread lead into air, dusts, soils, waterways, sediments and the food chain. With pressure from Australia, a stroke of the pen in the UK could rapidly bring an end to leaded petrol for road-use, so we can start retrieving that lead from the environment and stop the continuing poisoning of people.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, lead poisoning accounts for 229,000 deaths from cardio-vascular disease (CVD) per year. In China, 38.5% of children and 31.8% of adults are estimated to have more than enough lead exposure for an increased risk of early death by heart attack or stroke.”

Because China has the largest number of people, in any country, with lead poisoning, Ms O’Brien will also be meeting with the NGO Global Village Beijing to discuss ways of tackling the problem.

* See for the map of countries still selling leaded petrol as at January 2008, and see for the list of countries derived from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Partnership for Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV).

Contact: Elizabeth O’Brien, The LEAD Group - (02) 9716 0132, mobile 0431 184 933     ###

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Last Updated 08 March 2012
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