The era of leaded gasoline has finally come to an end.

Yes, you read that correctly. Leaded gasoline is finally no longer being used anywhere on the planet. Environmental activists, government regulators, and people with common sense are happy to see the poisonous additive is no longer used. Algeria, the last country to still use leaded gasoline, has exhausted its remaining stockpile. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) spent the last 20 years trying to rid its use across the world. “The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director.

History of Leaded Gasoline
In the early 1900’s, researchers were looking for uses for the compound called “tetraethyl lead.” At one time, it was being considered for use as a chemical weapon, however the chemical industry found a more universal use for the toxic substance. They found it improved engine performance and reduced cylinder knock gasoline powered engines. Despite numerous workplace related exposures and fatalities, the chemical industry pushed hard to sell the substance across the US and rest of the world.

Eventually, in 1965, word started to get out about the toxic substance from the research of Dr. Clair Patterson when the publication of his research paper “Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man” was released. The chemical industry fought tooth and nail to hide this information so they could continue to manufacture and sell the substance. Dr. Patterson’s work, along with the support of environmental activists and key government officials, helped phase out lead from all standard, consumer automotive gasoline in the US by 1986.

Studies on the average blood lead content for US citizens reportedly showed a decrease of approximately 80% by the late 1990’s. This is a big victory for public health advocates in those areas that still used the substance.

However, the fight against lead poisoning continues still as currently, lead-based paint is the number one cause for lead exposure in children six years old and younger, the most at risk to its harmful effects. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and State and local government agencies are actively working to reduce childhood lead poisoning. For over 20 years, EI has provided support to HUD funded lead safe programs, local health departments, and residential clients to identify, evaluate, and control hazards created from lead-based paint.

If you have lead concerns or in need of EI’s HUD lead services, please contact Eric Cureton, Industrial Hygiene Manager, at (540) 343-9595 or [email protected].