FRANCE: Data shows lead in air has dropped by 42% since leaded petrol ban

Figures released by the French Environment Ministry have shown that the ban on leaded petrol, which took effect in most EU countries on 1 January, has had an immediate effect in reducing lead levels in ambient air.


Air quality monitoring in urban areas showed a range of 23-70% reduction in lead levels during January and February 2000 compared with levels recorded during the same months of 1999.

A monitoring station in Lyon recorded the largest reduction at 70%, with Amiens recording 68% and the two Parisian stations recording 56% and 36% reductions. A Toulouse monitoring station – located so as to track industrial point-source emissions – recorded the lowest reduction, at 23%.

The average reduction for the 12 participating monitoring stations was just under 42%.

All EU states other than Spain, Italy and France’s overseas territories implemented the ban on leaded petrol at the beginning of the year. Italy and Spain were granted a two year derogation and France’s overseas territories were given an extra five years.

Although the lead reductions recorded since the all-out ban on leaded petrol are real, a Montpellier-based air quality technician told edie that this winter’s reduction needs to be put in context – lead levels in Montpellier’s air dropped throughout the 1990s. In fact, between 1989 and 1999 lead levels dropped by 90%, with 1989 levels at 0.9µg/m3. By 1992, levels had reduced to 0.26µg/m3. 1999 was the first year in a decade that lead levels rose in Montpellier, but 2000 data shows the diminishing trend has regained course.

  • The UK will release data on lead levels soon. It has five sites designed specifically to monitor leaded petrol and its impact on air quality. These are in Manchester, Cardiff, London, Newcastle and one rural site which provides a ‘background’ reading.

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