Leaded petrol is now ‘so last century’ – officially banished to the past

Leaded petrol is now ‘so last century’ – officially banished to the past

For almost a century toxic leaded petrol polluted air, soil and water – but now, it’s officially banished to the past. The era of leaded petrol is officially over across the globe as Algeria, the last country still selling leaded petrol, sealed up the last of its pumps – much to the relief of the UN, which says the move eliminates a major threat to human and planetary health.

The use of leaded fuel dates back to 1922. Despite the fact that the health, safety and pollution problems associated with leaded petrol were raised as early as 1924, the fuel continued in demand until the 1970s, when lead continued to be added to petrol.


UN experts have called the use of the fuel a “catastrophe for the environment and public health”. By the 1970s, nearly all petrol produced around the world contained lead. Now the last country to use it, Algeria, has finally stopped selling it in petrol stations, according to a report in The Guardian.

The use of leaded petrol was phased out of developed countries in the 1980s, but Algeria only used up the last of its supplies in July.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who called the eradication of leaded petrol an “international success story”, which will prevent up to a million premature deaths each year.

Fossil fuels

The next push from the UN will be to phase out fossil fuels in cars, and mandate the use of cleaner fuel. They warn that while many countries have already begun transitioning to electric cars, 1.2bn new vehicles will hit the road in the coming decades, and many of these will use fossil fuels, especially in developing countries, pointing out that poor-quality used vehicles from Europe, the United States and Japan, are likely to be imported to mid- and low-income countries once richer communities transition to electric.