When service stations in Algeria stopped providing leaded gasoline in July, the use of leaded gasoline in cars ended globally. This development follows an almost two-decades-long campaign by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-led global Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV).
Tetraethyl lead was used as a gasoline additive to improve engine performance. By the 1970s, almost all gasoline produced around the world contained lead. When the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) began its campaign to eliminate lead in gasoline in 2002, leaded gasoline had become one of the most serious environmental threats to human health.
Leaded gasoline causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also affects the development of the human brain, especially harming children, with studies suggesting it reduced 5-10 IQ points. Banning the use of leaded gasoline has been estimated to prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year, increase IQ points among children, save USD 2.45 trillion for the global economy, and decrease crime rates.
By the 1980s, most high-income countries had prohibited the use of leaded gasoline, yet as late as 2002, almost all low- and middle-income countries, including some Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members, were still using leaded gasoline. The PCFV is a public-private partnership that brought all stakeholders to the table, providing technical assistance, raising awareness, overcoming local challenges and resistance from local oil dealers and producers of lead, as well as investing in refinery upgrades.