Part of the show How Drugs Affect the Body
Although leaded petrol is a thing of the past in Europe and America, its still common in poorer countries. But according to New Scientist last week, lead in petrol could easily be replaced with ethanol obtained from sugarcane. Lead pollution in Africa has reached levels that haven't been seen in Europe for 30 years. Africa is forced to use leaded petrol because it is the cheapest option. Ironically, most of the lead that Africa imports comes from richer countries like Britain. Lead poisoning slows down brain development in children and causes high blood pressure in adults. So replacing lead with ethanol would be a much cleaner and safer option. It would even cut the cost of petrol for poorer countries, because the ethanol could be produced locally from home-grown sugarcane. Lead pollution from petrol fumes is still a major problem in Africa because most African nations can't afford to use unleaded petrol.