Lead Lingers in London After 22 Years of Leaded Fuel Ban

Up to 40% of Lead in Airborne Particles Come from Dirty Gasoline Legacy 

When London banned leaded gasoline in 1999, the city’s air quality improved dramatically. London currently meets the United Kingdom’s air quality standards. However, according to new research, airborne particles found in the city are still heavily lead-enriched. In a recent study, published in the Proceedings of National Academies of Science, researchers discovered that up to 40% of lead in London’s present-day airborne particles come from a combusted lead generated decades ago. Lead is known to be highly toxic. Low levels of environmental lead exposure have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, in children as well as cardiovascular, kidney, and reproductive problems in adults. In the study, the authors explain the precarious nature of lead pollution. They describe a situation where the contaminant is constantly remobilized into the air through wind and vehicle movement. The remobilized lead falls and settles into the environment but is continuously re-suspended. The team suggests that an in-depth study should be conducted which measures the blood lead levels of London’s population to determine the overall lead burden on its citizens. If those test results prove harmful, the team recommends covering contaminated soils with fresh soil to bury the lead in an attempt to end the cycle of remobilization. The research team concludes that more research is needed to identify the effect that current lead concentrations have to determine its consequences on human health. Additionally, the team suggests finding the best way to rid London’s lead legacy for the city’s future. 

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Original Study

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