The sign on the gas pump saying "unleaded" will soon be a quaint anachronism, like the sign on the plane saying "No Smoking." A successful push by the Natural Resources Defense Council to phase out leaded gas worldwide is rushing leaded gas towards the same fate as smallpox — total elimination by a public health campaign.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), working with NRDC in the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, today announced toxic lead has been removed from gasoline in more than 175 countries worldwide – representing near-global eradication. A new, independent scientific analysis shows the result of this achievement is a 90 percent drop in blood lead levels worldwide, as well as 1.2 million lives saved each year and $2.4 trillion generated in health, social and economic benefits annually.
The NRDC has been fighting against leaded gas since the '70s, so this is the culmination of a lot of hard work. It managed to get the lead out in the U.S. in 1978, but bringing the phaseout global took longer and required the backup of the U.N., the World Bank, and international environmental organizations, all of whom are probably feeling pretty good right now. Leaded gas has a couple of holdouts, including Myanmar and South Korea, but the push has been almost completely successful.