IRIN news wire has published this story about Jordan's recent switch to unleaded fuel.
Many petrol stations across Jordan no longer sell leaded petrol after a
government decision to switch to unleaded fuel in a bid to improve
public health. Emissions from vehicles which use leaded petrol are
believed to be harmful - especially to children.
Medical experts say short-term exposure to high levels of lead can
result in brain and kidney damage, while chronic exposure could affect
the blood and central nervous system, blood pressure, kidneys and the
body's ability to metabolise vitamin D. Children are particularly
sensitive to the effects of lead, because they absorb lead more easily
than adults and are more susceptible to its harmful effects, according
Lead has been linked with reduced intelligence, attention deficit
disorders and behavioural difficulties, according to United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP).
Ministry of Environment officials said the move to phase out leaded
petrol began two years ago as part of Jordan's commitment to a global
initiative to phase out the use of lead in fuel.
"As of early March, Jordan no longer produces regular gasoline and all
gas stations have abided by this decision. This is part of our
commitment to the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV)
agreement," said Essa Shboul, spokesman of the Ministry of Environment.
Other countries in the region - including Syria, Lebanon, the oil rich
Gulf states, and Egypt - have already completely switched to unleaded
fuel. "We lagged behind most countries due to technical reasons, but
now we are on track," said Shboul.
The decision to switch to unleaded fuel coincided with a measure to
increase petrol prices by 30 percent.
The switch to unleaded gas paves the way for cleaner vehicle
technologies, such as catalytic converters, which can reduce harmful
emissions from vehicles by over 90 percent, UNEP says.
Yassin Khaiat, director-general of the Jordan Institution for Standards
and Metrology (JISM), said the government is banning the import of
vehicles without a catalytic converter.
"Instructions have been given to customs officials to reject vehicles
not fitted with converters as of 2008," said Khaiat.
Environmentalists still worried
However, some environmentalists are less than happy: Ahmed Koufahi,
executive manager of Jordan Environment Group, said a hazardous
chemical compound, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), used to convert
leaded fuel to unleaded could cause cancer and posed serious risks to
humans and the environment. He said the country lacked the necessary
infrastructure to prevent leakage of the highly toxic material.
"Such additives are as bad if not worse than using leaded fuel. We
warned the government not to switch to unleaded fuel until all gas
stations were equipped with the necessary technology to contain the
Officials from the Ministry of Environment ruled out the use of
alternatives: "Ethanol is very expensive and is available in a limited
number of countries," said Shboul.
Jordan has taken a number of measures to reduce pollution, including
installing Internet-linked sensorsto monitor vehicle emissions in
cities. It has also set up an environmental police division to monitor
the implementation of environmental legislation passed by parliament in