The Week in Fuel.

This week I have seen two articles from different sources regarding the fuel we put in our cars.

The first article is from the BBC and is based on research conducted in America: it discusses the idea that removing lead from petrol may be linked to a decline in crime. Originally petrol had been lead free, until in 1921 a man named Thomas Midgley created Tetraethyl Lead. He was certain it would make out motor cars more efficient. From the moment the used of leaded petrol became popular, a crime wave that would last for decades reared it’s ugly head and it appears that it is only now abating.

Strangely, it appeared that when crime levels showed signs of dropping 20 years ago, it was in countries that were locking up fewer criminals. That’s right, a country locks up less criminals than average, and yet their crimes rates drop. Confused?

Well it would appear it is related to the absorption of Lead into the body. Teeth, bones and blood can absorb Lead, and related conditions include: kidney damage, inhibited growth, abdominal pain, anaemia, nerve damage, pregnancy complications, headaches, stunted IQ and aggressive or dysfunctional behaviour. The concerns were so severe, that it was recommended women not work in factories where Lead was present (to avoid damage to the reproductive organs and unborn children), and that school children should refrain from touching walls or putting their hands near their mouths due to the Lead in paint.

It had already become obvious that Lead was related to dysfunctional behaviour, and so research began to study the link between Lead fumes in the air, absorption into the body, and criminal behaviour. The results were shocking; the amount of Lead in the environment increased and within two decades crime rates had reached terrifying levels, and when Lead was actively being removed from our environment the crime rates dropped in the following two decades. Two decades was enough time for Lead to be absorbed into human bodies in vast amounts, or for it to dissipate.

Ironically, we may have removed one problem and created another.

An article on the Daily Mail website regarding a possible link between Diesel fumes and the current health crisis caught my attention. Since the 1970’s, there has been a drive (sorry for the pun) to switch from Petrol to Diesel, as it produces less greenhouses gasses and is therefore better for the environment. However, in recent years scientists have confirmed that Diesel produces particles and Nitrogen Oxide in far higher amounts and can be linked to a number of health problems. I’m fact, it is believed that the rise in the Diesel engine (more than half of UK cars now run on Diesel) was the primary cause of the smog that enveloped Britain in April.

In Petrol cars we have seen increasingly improved filters and catalytic converters, but the advances to Diesel cars have been less forthcoming. Around 29,000 deaths a year are linked to air pollution, with health issues such as Asthma, Stroke and Heart problems on the rise. Research suggests that around 25% of those 29,000 annual deaths could be directly linked to Diesel emissions.

In the last few years we have enjoyed an improvement in Britain’s air quality due to the number of projects dedicated to the cause. However it would seem that we are still very much in the early stages and there is much more to be done.

These are the articles from their original sources: … risis.html

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Kathy Clements
Kathy Clements
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