A recent study from Imperial College London showed that there’s still lead in London air from leaded petrol (gasoline) that was banned more than two decades ago, back in the ’90s. Yes, the ’90s feels like yesterday to me, but there are still several teenagers and young adults moving through Wimbledon this week who weren’t even alive in the ’90s. It’s quite shocking to think that lead is still lingering from that far back.
There’s more to the story that I’ll touch on, but several things came to mind right away after learning about this that is actually a bigger deal. The number one thing that comes to mind is that we don’t get to just open the door and let the greenhouse gases out once we finally stop emitting far too many of those. The greenhouse gases filling up our atmosphere and trapping more and more heat are going to be there for a long time. And that covers all of the Earth. You can’t just decide to move to the countryside.
Another thing that came to mind is that lead causes all kinds of problems, including greater aggression and violence. The fact that the effects of excess lead in the air must be continuing as well is not an uplifting thought.
To the facts.
“The study found that up to 40 per cent of lead in airborne particles today comes from the legacy of leaded petrol. The researchers say this highlights the long-term persistence of contaminants introduced by human activities in the environment,” as Caroline Brogan of Imperial College London puts it.
Dr Eléonore Resongles, who carried out the work at Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering and was the lead author, stated: “Long-term low-level exposure to lead can adversely affect health and, while we don’t yet know the health implications of our findings, they suggest that leaded petrol might still be providing low level exposure which can have detrimental effects on health.”
Senior author Professor Dominik Weiss added: “Our findings highlight the need for an in-depth study of blood lead levels in the population as was done recently in the US. Legacy lead deposited pre-1999 is significantly contributing to the overall lead burden, so we must try to reduce further the amount of lead we are releasing today if we want to offset legacy metals.”
Naturally, the researchers also pointed out that this problem may persist (most likely does) in large cities around the world, and that they found similar results in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For a more detailed look at this matter, read more from Caroline Brogan, read the press release, or read the study itself: “Strong evidence for the continued contribution of lead deposited during the 20th century to the atmospheric environment in London” by Resongles et al., published 21 June 2021 in PNAS.
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