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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.4 Genebra Jan. 2002 

Asian governments are told to remove lead from petrol

Environmental and health experts meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, called for Asian governments to move quickly to remove lead from petrol. Researchers working with Thailand's Mahidol University have found reductions in the level of lead in children's blood in Bangkok after the introduction of lead-free petrol in the country. Studies in Europe and the USA have shown that the switch to lead-free petrol reduced the levels of lead in children's blood by 90%. This in turn led to a 30—40% reduction in learning disabilities caused by lead. In Asia, where over half the world's population lives and 40% of them are under 18 years of age, the damage done by lead and other environmental hazards could be catastrophic, the conference warned at the conclusion of its meeting on 7 March.

The delegates also heard how Asia's industrialization had multiplied the environmental hazards children face. Untreated waste from factories is dumped in landfills and waterways, becoming an immediate hazard to children scavenging dumps or bathing in rivers and canals. In addition, lavish use of pesticides in agriculture has increased the risk of toxic chemicals finding their way into the food chain. These newer hazards come in addition to the long-standing ones of indoor air pollution, arsenic in groundwaters and naturally high levels of fluoride in drinking-water. Further information can be found at