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Unleaded Gas: Why was it Banned in the US?

A few years ago, many countries around the world, the United States included, switched from leaded to unleaded fuel. One reason for this change is that leaded gasoline contains an additive known as “tetraethyllead” which retards preignition in gas engines. Preignition is the one that allows engines to run and not shut off. There are two important problems surrounding the use of leaded fuel: toxicity and the drastic effects it has over engines. Lead by itself is quite toxic, and there has been documentation showing that it causes mental retardation in children. This can happen since the lead oxide from car exhaust accumulates in the soil that is located near roads, and children that play outdoors can get it on their hands, ingest it and cause damage. Besides, leaded gasoline has been proven to ruin automobile catalytic converters. For those two reasons, the correspondent authorities of the United States decided to ban lead gas. Moreover, lead gasoline has dramatic effects over animals and plants in our environment. When lead oxidizes, it can penetrate our skin and get into the blood. Therefore, not only lead has been banned from gasoline but also from any other product that may contain it (such as paint and lubricants). However, less dangerous chemicals are being used in lead’s place in fuels. A tiny amount of lead is still used in gasoline only because of the natural processes under which oil is formed underground, but as a whole lead is no longer added to gasoline.

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