FILE PHOTO: A worker holds a nozzle to pump petrol into a vehicle at a fuel station in Mumbai, India, May 21, 2018.
FILE PHOTO: A worker holds a nozzle to pump petrol into a vehicle at a fuel station in Mumbai, India, May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo
REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo
  • The United Nations Environment Programme says the era of leaded petrol is officially over.
  • The milestone will prevent over 1.2 million premature deaths a year.
  • Leaded petrol causes heart disease, strokes, cancer, and stunts brain development, UNEP says.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The era of leaded petrol is officially over in a milestone victory for human and planetary health, the United Nations Environment Programme said on Monday.

UNEP estimates that banning the use of leaded petrol will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths and save the global economy $2.45 trillion each year, as well as decrease crime rates.

Monday's milestone announcement comes after nearly two decades of campaigning by UNEP to eliminate the use of lead in petrol, which has contaminated air, soil, dust, drinking water and food crops. The global end of petrol use officially started in July after it was no longer provided by service stations in Algeria.

The organization said leaded petrol causes heart disease, strokes and cancer, while also stunting brain development.

"The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. "Overcoming a century of deaths and illnesses that affected hundreds of millions and degraded the environment worldwide, we are invigorated to change humanity's trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility."

Most high-income countries prohibited the use of leaded petrol by the 1980s, UNEP said. Yet, in 2002, when the organization started its campaign, nearly all low- and middle-income countries were still using leaded petrol.

The organization said fast-growing global vehicle production still threatens air, water, and soil with pollution, and that the transportation sector is responsible for "nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions."

The automotive industry is well underway with efforts to slow carbon emissions, in part by ramping up the development and production of electrified vehicles. Several countries including Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Britain have already set forth plans to ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in the next 10 to 15 years.

UNEP said the end of leaded petrol will help to satisfy many of the United Nations' sustainable development goals, like clean water and energy, good health and well-being, and sustainable cities.

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