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  QUESTION: South Africa's phase out of leaded petrol, 04 May 2005, Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa

I am writing an article for The Witness newspaper on the issue of South Africa phasing out unleaded petrol by January 2006. I am interested in SA safety chemist Peter Wood's comments which I came across on your website. Do you know how I can get hold of him? Could you send me comment on this South African initiative. Owners of older cars are concerned over the repercussions of running their cars on unleaded petrol or having to pay a levy on the new 97. Are these concerns valid?

Could you e-mail a response to these concerns?

ANSWER: 06 May 2005

Dear Laura,

sorry I have taken so long to reply and I hope you haven't passed your copy deadline.

We have not had any contact with Peter Woods for nearly 5 years but I'm CC'ing this to him with his email addresses as at Sept 2000 and I hope that if you can't contact him by email with those addresses, then you may be able to obtain a phone number based on his postal address which was: PO Box 19087, Sunward Park, South Africa 1470.

As for my own opinions on South Africa's phase-out of leaded petrol, I have to say: "It's about time! South Africa is way behind many less developed nations in taking so long to ban such a proven source of raised blood lead levels for the entire population plus environmental lead contamination. The benefits of the ban in terms of reducing population blood lead levels, stopping the flow of lead contamination into soils, dusts and sediments, preventing exposure of refinery and service station workers to tetra-alkyl lead, extending the life of vehicles by no longer polluting their engines and exhausts with lead and best of all, creating the possibility to introduce catalytic converters on all new vehicles without the risk of lead poisoning them, far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. I cannot comment on South Africa's intended pricing policy as regards the 97 octane unleaded fuel which most drivers will have to use in place of the leaded fuel, because I do not know what the policy is. However, any government which is serious about banning leaded petrol will ensure that the replacement petrol is priced cheaper than the leaded petrol. It certainly is becoming more costly to add lead to petrol now that only one tenth of world petrol consumption is of leaded petrol, that is, the price of tetra-alkyl lead is going up in a diminishing world market.

In every country where leaded petrol has been banned, it has been proven that the concerns about cars not running as well on unleaded petrol have been completely unfounded and these concerns can be shown to have been encouraged by the manufacturer of tetra-alkyl lead.

My main question for South Africa is: why wait until January 2006 - why not sooner?"

You will find an excellent article about banning leaded petrol entitled "Myths and Realities about phasing out leaded gasoline"

I hope this helps and please send me a copy of your article for our library.

I look forward to hearing back from you.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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