Until 1999, leaded petrol remained the primary source of lead emissions in the UK atmosphere
New research suggests that lead from petrol persists in London’s air despite it being banned in 1999.
Experts found that levels in London’s atmosphere have dropped drastically since lead additives in petrol were phased out, and currently meet UK air quality targets.
However, despite this drop, airborne particles in the city are still highly lead-enriched compared to natural background levels.
Up to 40% of lead in airborne particles today comes from the legacy of leaded petrol, the researchers found.
They say this highlights the long-term persistence of contaminants introduced by human activities in the environment.
Lead author of the study Dr Eleonore Resongles, who carried out the work at Imperial College London’s department of Earth science and engineering, said: “Petrol-derived lead deposited decades ago remains an important pollutant in London.
“Despite the leaded petrol ban, historically combusted lead is still present in London’s air more than 20 years later.”