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Phasing lead out of gasoline: An examination of policy approaches in different countries

Paris/Nairobi, February 2000 - There is a firm consensus among governments, the lead and automotive industries, and health experts that gasoline should not contain lead. This consensus began to build in the 1970s, when the first health effects from exposure to airborne lead were suspected.

Since that time additional studies have confirmed that any absorption of lead into the body has detrimental effects, particularly on the early development of nervous systems in children and fetuses. With the knowledge of potential health effects, some governments have established programmes to completely eliminate the use of lead as a gasoline additive.

In 1999, unleaded gasoline accounted for 80 percent of total worldwide sales. In a significant portion of the remaining 20 percent, the lead content has been reduced - generally at very low cost. The benefits, however, have been substantial. Lead can be removed from gasoline without harm and with net economic benefits. Still, millions of people in Asia, Latin America, and particularly Africa are still exposed to unacceptable levels of airborne lead.

The joint UNEP/OECD publication Phasing Lead out of Gasoline helps policy makers select the best options and programmes for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of lead in gasoline. It provides guidance on the various policy options available, including fuel distribution and vehicle manufacturer approaches. The importance of correct tax or pricing policies is highlighted. Examples from different countries provide real world experience, and a bibliography directs interested readers to related publications.

The publication follows from a consultative meeting organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); its preparation was supported by a contribution from the International Lead Management Center.


ISBN 92-807-1796-0
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About the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics

The mission of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics is to help decision- makers in government, local authorities, and industry develop and adopt policies and practices that:


  • are cleaner and safer;
  • make efficient use of natural resources;
  • ensure adequate management of chemicals;
  • incorporate environmental costs;
  • reduce pollution and risks for humans and the
  • environment.

The UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP TIE) located in Paris, is composed of one centre and four units:


  • The International Environmental Technology Centre (Osaka), which promotes the adoption and use of environmentally sound technologies with a focus on the environmental management of cities and freshwater basins, in developing countries and countries in transition.


  • Production and Consumption (Paris), which fosters the development of cleaner and safer production and consumption patterns that lead to increased efficiency in the use of natural resources and reductions in pollution.


  • Chemicals (Geneva), which promotes sustainable development by catalysing global actions and building national capacities for the sound management of chemicals and the improvement of chemical safety world-wide, with a priority on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Prior Informed Consent (PIC, jointly with FAO)


  • Energy and OzonAction (Paris), which supports the phase-out of ozone depleting substances in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and promotes good management practices and use of energy, with a focus on atmospheric impacts. The UNEP/RISØ Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment supports the work of the Unit.


  • Economics and Trade (Geneva), which promotes the use and application of assessment and incentive tools for environmental policy and helps improve the understanding of linkages between trade and environment and the role of financial institutions in promoting sustainable development.

    UNEP TIE activities focus on raising awareness, improving the transfer of information, building capacity, fostering technology cooperation, partnerships and transfer, improving understanding of environmental impacts of trade issues, promoting integration of environmental considerations into economic policies, and catalysing global chemical safety.

    For more information contact:
    UNEP, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Production and Consumption Unit, 39-43, Quai André Citroën, 75739 Paris Cedex 15, France,
    Tel: 33 1 44 37 14 50; Fax: 33 1 44 37 14 74;
    URL: .

    In Nairobi, please contact
    Tore J. Brevik,
    Spokesman/Director of Information, Communication and Public Information, UNEP, P.O. Box 30552.
    Tel. 254-2 623292; Fax: 623692;

    UNEP Information Note 00/10

Thursday 17 Feb 2000
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