Unleaded gas making inroads in African countries — finally

Years after leaded gas was given the heave-ho in developed countries, a number of African nations are beginning the process of shifting to unleaded. Leaded gas — or rather, the lead spewed into the air when it is combusted — has been shown to lower IQs in children and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in adults. The U.N. and the U.S. EPA, among others, are pushing for the elimination of leaded gas in developing countries, but the process is complicated by several social and economic factors. There is a widespread, but mistaken, belief in some parts of Africa that unleaded gas only works in newer model cars. And it would be pricey to convert many African oil refineries to produce unleaded gas. Still, thousands of lives stand to be saved — particularly among the poor, who are hardest hit by lead pollution. After the U.S. finally banned lead in gas in 1995, the amount of lead in the air declined by an estimated 98 percent.