Measurement and Testing

Where is Leaded Petrol Legal?

Sep 13 2017 Comments 0

Banned in the UK since 2000, tetraethyl lead (TEL) is a toxic substance that can trigger premature death, brain damage and a host of other health problems. While it’s been outlawed across the globe, Cheshire-based firm Innospec Ltd is continuing to sell tetraethyl lead to Algeria, the last place on earth where leaded petrol is still legal.

Now, Greenpeace is calling on the British government to ban exports of tetraethyl lead, labelling it a “catastrophic” substance that has a serious impact on human health. The group is adamant that May and her government should sanction its sale, maintaining that the export of such a dangerous substance is “unacceptable.”

The toxic effects of TEL

According to experts one of the biggest concerns is the effect of TEL on children’s brains. There’s a direct link between lead in the blood and a decline in children’s cognitive abilities, which means phasing out TEL should be an absolute priority. The evidence against lead based fuels is overwhelming, with vehicle emissions the single biggest contributor to lead content in air.

Innospec in the spotlight

It’s not the first time Innospec has landed itself in hot water, with a pair of executives recently convicted of bribing Indonesian officials to smooth sales of TEL in the South East Asian nation. While the company has confirmed that it’s been working with countries to gradually phase out the use of TEL in fuel, its status on Algeria remains unclear.

Greenpeace slams May ministry

Rebecca Newsom, a senior political advisor at Greenpeace isn’t holding back on criticism, stressing that campaigners have been asking the UK government to “urgently stop dangerous lead exports” since 2013.

“It is deeply concerning that this is taking so long to end,” she muses. “British businesses should be held to the same safety standards for all their products – wherever they are sold… Allowing the export of this dangerous substance, despite having rules at home to protect our own children, is unacceptable.”

With post-Brexit trade negotiations on the horizon, Greenpeace and its fellow anti TEL advocated are looking for reassurance that the government takes chemical and environmental regulations seriously, both at home and abroad.

In its defense, Innospec claims that if it stops selling TEL to Algeria its vehicles will simply grind to a halt.

“All we do is we respond to their request if they send us an order and the money,” comments a spokesperson.

While lead has been banned on dry land, it remains an essential component of jet fuel. For an in-depth glimpse at the art of manufacturing aviation fuel don’t miss ‘Freezing Point Determination of AVGAS and Jet Fuel.’

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International Environmental Technology September / October 2017

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