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Switch to unleaded fuel in Africa within sight, UN environment agency reports

Switch to unleaded fuel in Africa within sight, UN environment agency reports

The international effort to phase out lead in gas is accelerating as more African countries switch to lead-free petrol, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The results of the research, to be presented to the UN agency’s Governing Council when it meets in February, indicates that four countries – Egypt, Libya, Mauritius and Sudan – are already fully lead-free and four others are soon to join them. Another 22 countries are in the process of drawing up plans to phase out lead in gas.

Plans are under way to bring the remaining countries on board, many of which are in Central Africa, in order to deliver the goal of a lead-free continent and a lead free world, UNEP said. "It has been known for many years that lead in petrol or gasoline is a serious health risk particularly to children,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. "But much of Africa, mainly for technological reasons, a lack of awareness of the health risks and misconceptions about the impact of unleaded fuels on engines, has lagged behind.”

The effort is one of first concrete outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held six months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. The voluntary initiative, a so-called Type II project, was born there with funding and support from Governments, the private sector, including the oil and automobile industries, civil society and international organizations like UNEP. “Let us hope that the success being achieved bodes well for the other Type II voluntary partnerships in areas ranging from coral reefs to environmental law,” Mr. Toepfer said.

The UNEP chief announced that, as a small but symbolic push toward the lead-free goal, the on-site filling station at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, which currently sells both leaded and unleaded petrol, will only sell unleaded fuel.