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Is Leaded Gas Still Used Today?

From what we know, leaded gas has been phased out for almost three decades. But apparently, airplanes still use this form of fuel that is quite toxic.

Leaded fuel is still being sold at around 13,000 airports across the United States. An estimated 170,000 small aircraft use this fuel. The residue of which has been seen in the surrounding communities.

What is Leaded Gas?

The fuel we commonly put in our cars today is the unleaded kind. The main difference between the unleaded and leaded fuel is the addition of tetraethyl lead.

Leaded gas was mainly used way back when people did not know about the harmful effects lead had on humans. They were eventually found to be dangerous to our health and the environment. Nowadays, you won’t find leaded gas in your local stations. It is more common in motor racing, heavy equipment, marine vehicles, and airplanes. (Source: American Five Start Transmission)

Why is Leaded Gas Still Used Today?

Sadly, even if we already know that there is an imminent threat to using leaded gasoline. Several facilities are still utilizing it.

In 1970, congress passed the Clean Air Act. They then created a task force dedicated to the cause; The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The authority had full power to regulate compounds that they see could danger human health.

In a span of three years, the EPA required everyone to reduce the lead content of all gasoline types. By 1996, they completely banned the use of leaded fuel for on-road vehicles. (Source: Environmental and Energy Study Institute)

The fact of the matter is that lead aviation gas seems to be in the middle of bureaucracy. At the same time, it is the only kind of fuel ideal for certain types of aircraft.

EPA will follow the science and law in developing any future decisions regarding lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft.

Enesta Jones, EPA Spokesperson

Fuel and emissions are governed by the federal government. So until they come up with an alternative fuel, there is a limited amount the county can do to address that.

Eric Peterson

(Source: NBC News)

Does the Continous Leaded Gas Affect the Communities Around Airports?

A resident of San Jose, California, Miguel Alarcon, would often wipe down his white pick-up truck as it seemed to accumulate a layer of grey film every so often. Alarcon believed that this was caused by the exhaust coming from leaded-fueled aircraft.

My car was always dirty from the pollution. I’d move but the problem is sadly it’s very expensive here. In the airport area, in each house, there are two to three families because it’s so expensive.

Miguel Alarcon

Even with dangerous residues landing in their space and inferior air quality, residents continue to live within the area. They have come to accept their fate of residing next to an airport.

There is no bright line that says ‘Above this concentration lead is safe and below this concentration’ that it is not. You’d have to make a policy decision. We’re really careful to come back to this point that just because public areas might meet the EPA standard doesn’t mean zero risk or zero concern.

Jay Turner, Washington University in St. Louis

(Source: NBC News)

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