by Douglas Wragg
Oil companies convinced us that unleaded petrol is
safer for our health and environment than leaded petrol. By their
failure to disclose all the facts, we have been seriously conned! The
very terms "leaded" and "unleaded" are misleading.
They give the impression that "leaded" petrol is contaminated
with something nasty, namely lead, while "unleaded" is somehow
pristine, pure. Whilst it is true that "leaded" petrol
contains lead, and lead is not a nice substance to have spewing out of
the exhaust pipes of millions of cars, the truth is that unleaded petrol
has even nastier properties. Let’s start at the beginning.
When internal combustion engines were first developed
for the automobile, they ran on a substance known as "motor
spirit". By today’s standards, motor spirit was an exceptionally
"clean" fuel; properly burnt in an efficient engine, the main
exhaust products were water vapour, carbon dioxide and some trace
carbonic elements and particles. There were two main problems with motor
spirit. First and foremost, it was a highly refined product which cost
the oil companies far more to produce than what they wanted to spend, or
what they thought they could charge if the automobile was really to take
off in a big way.
Secondly, the original combustion engines ran at very
low compression ratios compared to today. As the vehicle manufacturers
strove to produce ever faster, more powerful engines, they gradually
raised the compression ratios, as this is one of the easiest ways of
gaining more power from any given-sized power plant. So, for a period,
these two problems developed side by side until they eventually collided
with the development of the V-8 engine. On the one hand, fuels were
becoming less and less refined, and therefore more contaminated with
products that adversely affected engine efficiency.
On the other hand, power plants were being developed
which employed ever higher compression ratios and required ever more
exacting performance from the fuel used. With the advent of the
high-compression engine, a point was reached where cars would not run
satisfactorily on the product being supplied by the oil companies. An
engine under load would develop a condition known as
"pinging", where the fuel mixture would explode due to
compression before the right time, causing rough running, stalling going
up hills, and so on.
There was only a shortlist of answers. Vehicle
manufacturers could go back to designing low-compression engines, the
oil companies could go back to producing a highly refined product, or
something would have to be found that could be added to stop the fuel
pre-igniting. The first choice was unacceptable to the manufacturers.
They had long since embarked on a marketing strategy that demanded ever
bigger, ever more powerful power plants every year. Nobody was prepared
to take the risk of producing a less-efficient, less powerful engine
than the one offered the year before. The second choice was unacceptable
to the oil companies. They had perfected the technique of producing a
fuel with a minimum of refining, that could still be burned in engines,
at such a low price and in such quantities that they were well on their
way to becoming the richest, most powerful companies on Earth. They had
no intention of greatly increasing the cost of their product, thereby
turning many people off the "advantages" and
"economy" of owning their very own car. The third choice was
the only acceptable one. All that was needed was to find some product,
something that could be obtained cheaply, that could be added to petrol
to reduce its tendency to "ping" under compression. Common
lead was found to have all the right properties, and so
"leaded" petrol was born.
By the late ‘sixties, supplies of high-grade, low-sulphur,
low-nitrate oil were becoming scarce enough to command premium prices.
This type of oil was favoured by the petroleum producers, since removing
these contaminants to an acceptable level is difficult and costly. The
companies were refining increasing amounts of the cheaper, high-sulphur,
high-nitrate oil, but using the same old processes. This in turn led to
ever higher levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in vehicle
emissions, and people were starting to complain-if not about the
environmental effect, then at least about the smell. The smog banks over
the bigger American and Australian cities during this period were not,
as most people believe, the result of so many more cars on the road,
although this, of course, was a contributing factor. The main cause was
the vastly increased levels of sulphur/nitrogen oxides in the vehicle
emissions because of the higher levels of contamination in the fuels
themselves. The oil companies were once again faced with the dilemma of
cleaning up their product or finding another solution that did not
affect their profits.
The chemical theories and practices of catalytic
conversion had been known for many years. It had always been known to
the oil companies that they could use these processes to further refine
their petroleum products. This, however, would have meant major
upgradings of their refineries. Far better if they could get somebody
else to foot the bill. Even better if they could get somebody to meet
the cost of total responsibility for all the oxides.
In the ‘fifties, a lot of work was done trying to
utilise the CO2 from such fixtures as coal and oil electric power
stations to increase plant growth. These efforts failed because of the
harmful effects of the concentrations of other pollutants in the
exhausts. These were principally the same sulphur/nitrogen oxides. At
the time of these experiments, it was discovered that passing the
exhaust gases through a filter of platinum caused a catalytic conversion
of the oxides to other products which could then be prevented from
escaping into the greenhouses used for food production. The problem at
the time was that it was not economically feasible to do this: platinum
converters are very expensive things, and they do eventually wear out
and require replacing. There was an added problem that the eventual
by-products were in many cases even more harmful than the original
oxides. This information then remained unused for some decades.
THE BIG CON
Eventually the blankets of sulphur and nitrogen
oxides, better known as smog, grew so thick and so unbearable that
"public opinion" caused America’s legislators to start looking
for answers. Obviously the place to start was with the oil companies.
The oil companies announced quite loudly, and mostly erroneously, that
the problem was "so many cars". There were only two solutions,
they said: either limit the number of cars, or put something into the
cars to "change" and limit the emissions. Was such a thing
possible, asked the legislators? Certainly, replied the oil companies.
Let us tell you about "catalytic converters" which can be
fitted to the exhaust system of every car. The legislators, although
they toyed with the concept, were not about to try and seriously
interfere with people’s rights to drive motor cars. Such action was
perceived as electoral suicide, especially when there was the
alternative "magic bullet" solution of converters available.
Neither were they about to listen to all the "extremists" who
were trying to tell them that the problem was in the type of oil being
refined in the first place, and the only long-term solution was to get
the oil companies to clean up their act. Such people contribute very
little to election campaigns; the petrol chemical giants contribute
There was only one problem left for the oil
companies. Unfortunately, while platinum doesn’t react to any great
degree with the products of burnt petrol, it reacts very readily with
lead-so readily, in fact, that burning a single tankful of
"leaded" petrol in a car with a catalytic converter will
render the converter useless. (This is the reason it is illegal to put
"leaded" petrol in the fuel tank of a car designed to run on
the "unleaded" variety.)
Trouble was, the oil companies couldn’t simply stop
putting lead in petrol, because the original reason for its presence-to
stop "pinging"-still existed. There were available alternative
additives that could be used, but these all had the disadvantage that,
untreated, they produced emissions far more deadly than even the lead.
On the plus side, however, these emissions could be filtered out by
catalytic converters. What was needed, then, was a campaign to convince
people that "leaded" petrol was a grave danger to the
environment, and that the only solution was to cease using it, replace
it with the "unleaded" variety, and then run the emissions
through a catalytic converter. Such a campaign would ensure that
legislation was passed forcing the fitting of catalytic converters,
which would overcome the original problem for the oil companies-the
increased levels of sulphur and nitrates in their fuel. You see, the
campaign never had anything to do with lead: it was simply a matter of
convincing people to use a fuel that wouldn’t wreck the converters, so
that the petroleum companies didn’t have to spend any more money
refining the oil and could get away with selling a dirtier product,
forcing the motorist to bear both the responsibility and the cost of
trying to clean up the air.
Anybody who doubts it was the quality of the petrol
rather than the number of cars which caused the massive increase in smog
in the period in question, need only look to actual figures. While it is
true that the number of cars in use was increasing, the rate of increase
was fairly steady. At the height of the "smog wars", however,
the levels of emissions were increasing at nearly four times the rate of
growth of car ownership. On top of that, this was the period where
petrol was starting to get more expensive, and "economical"
engines were becoming the order of the day. That is, although both car
ownership and petrol consumption were on the increase, rate of ownership
far outstripped rate of increase of consumption. (Source: Peter Sawyer,
Green Hoax Effect, Groupacumen Publishing, Wodonga, Victoria, Australia,
HEALTH RISKS FROM ULP!
As you are aware, we have been told that our old cars
must go because of their ‘dirty’ exhausts, in particular the lead
issuing forth and causing great public health problems. Dr David Warren
was the guest speaker at the quarterly meeting of the AOMC (Vic) on 28
February 1994. Dr Warren is a retired Research Scientist for the
Department of Defence and was the Energy Resources adviser to the
Victorian Government back in the early/mid-’80s when the ULP debate was
gathering momentum. Here is a condensed summary of Dr Warren’s address.
"In the early 1920s, a fellow called Thomas
Midgie was looking for something to combine with the free radicals to
stop ‘knocking’. He found that things like platinum, silver and lead
were able to hold these free radicals. Midgie figured that if he could
get lead oxide spread through the mixture, sooner or later the free
radicals would bump into a bit of lead oxide, which forms lead dioxide,
as lead has four bonds, but that breaks down to lead, Pb2, and oxygen,
O2, but slowed down the reaction.
"In searching for a way to get the lead spread
through the mixture, Midgie found a compound called lead tetraethyl
which is similar to the combinations in the groups making up petrol. The
first good thing about it is because it is like petrol, it is soluble in
petrol. The second is that it vaporises like petrol, which means that
the lead tetraethyl is dotted around in the mixture. The third thing: it
breaks down to lead at upper cylinder temperatures, lead atoms spread
around and the ethyls are let go. Then the lead does its job, combining
with the free radicals and slowing down the reaction. "Midgie’s
research took the octane number from 50 to 65; then research at the
refinery introduced crackling reforming and improved the octane number
past 89; then, with further developments and money, they got the octane
number up to 110 for aviation fuel.
ENTER THE GREENIES
"’Clean up car exhausts’ was the cry. By 1975,
lead was being reduced in petrol because lead is a poison-that is a
general statement; however, to get the fact exact you should say lead is
a poison when it is absorbed into the body. "Now, the fact that
lead is a poison if absorbed, does it follow that the lead in our bodies
is from the lead in petrol? That was the debate in the early ’80s. There
were a large number of contradictory reports in the papers, and the
National Energy Advisory Committee reported ‘no single case of clinical
lead poisoning has ever been demonstrated to be due to automotive
emissions of airborne lead’.
"There were tests and arguments all over the
world. In Frankfurt, the government decided they would cut the lead in
petrol from 0.4 to 0.15 grams per litre, about two thirds. Now if the
lead was a problem, it should have an effect on the community. If petrol
is causing part of the lead in the community and you cut it by two
thirds, any scientist knows it must have an effect, otherwise it had
nothing to do with it.
"The nett result: ‘Since the changes observed
are only of the order of statistical scatter (that is, you would never
measure anything and get the same thing twice), this indicates that lead
from petrol did not contribute to uptake by ingestion through
significant deposition on food and utensils as has been suggested. If it
had done, greater and continuing decrease in blood levels in the
community should have been observed.’ "In other words, they
measured nearly a thousand people over a five-year period and there was
no change at all despite cutting the lead content in petrol.
"In London we had Professor Lowthur of the
University of London pointing out that the lead that comes out of the
exhaust has been baked at 2,000-3,000°ree; Centigrade, like a house
brick, but so small that you need a microscope to see it. It doesn’t get
absorbed through the lungs and doesn’t even dissolve in the diluted
hydrochloric acid of the stomach. "It appears that the lead in the
air is not the source of the lead that is observed in the community.
"Besides, you can measure the lead coming out of
the cars and it settles. You measure it as grams per cubic metre at the
edge of the road, but if you go back ten feet it is less because it’s
very heavy dust. Even though it’s very small particles it is very
ENTER THE POLITICIANS
(In 1983 Dr Warren was the scientific adviser to the
committee for Energy Resources.) "The question came up: ‘Will we
ban lead in petrol?’ The real question was will we have ULP?’ The real
reason for ULP was that people wanted to fit catalytic converters on
their cars to get rid of the nitric oxides, carbon monoxide and unburnt
petrol that came out, but the lead spoilt the catalytic converters. That
was the reason that the rest of the world gave up lead in petrol. The
other countries banned it to bring in converters; we banned it because
we think it’s dangerous.
"So I (Dr Warren) prepared a speech and
convinced the Committee-about a dozen people from both parties-that lead
didn’t need to be banned and that we didn’t need lead-free petrol
because the evidence wasn’t there. "I prepared a subsequent speech
presented to Parliament by the then-State Member for Ballarat. At the
same time there was a paper from Dr Bell, the Director of Health of the
New South Wales Government.
"Dr Bell asked what was going to be added to the
petrol to raise the octane number if the lead was removed: ‘If the lead
is taken out, you have to add other things to run them in our cars; we
put in benzene, toluene, xylene, dimethylbenzene or mesitylene. They’re
all ring compounds and the dangers are that some of them are declared
carcinogens and the others are suspected carcinogens. We’re going to cut
lead even though there is no proof that it does anything wrong, and
we’re introducing substances which will ultimately be affecting the
cancer rates in our country.’
"The answer was: ‘We have converters and they
will destroy them’, but we all know that converters don’t work until
they are hot-about the first three miles or so-and every time you fill
up, the vapours are coming off.
"Now when the speech was delivered to
Parliament, there were only two people listening: myself (Dr Warren), to
see that he got it right, and the Member giving the speech. It seems
that the prevailing attitude was: ‘Don’t confuse us with the facts; our
mind is made up, the people want it and that is where the votes are.’
"Nobody listened to that speech because it was party policy: both
parties said, ‘No, we’ve decided-it doesn’t matter what the man says; go
and have a drink at the bar and when the bell rings we’ll come in and
vote’-and that’s how it was decided!"
ULP HEALTH RISK
Even at that stage, Dr Warren had found that the lead
problem was highly overstated and that the potential hazards from the
aromatic octane enhancers-like benzene-were greater than the perceived
lead problem. "In fact, this stuff appears to be so dangerous,
potentially lethal, that I urge you not to use it in any car not fitted
with a catalytic converter. Don’t use it in your mower, chainsaw,
whipper-snipper or outboard motor, and don’t wash parts in it. If any
gets on your skin, wash it off immediately. Avoid the fumes when
refueling and don’t allow anyone near the exhaust, particularly when the
exhaust system is cold. Remember that catalytic converters don’t work
until they reach some 400°ree;C."
In Britain, this risk is so clear that the National
Society for Clean Air has removed their support for ULP! Dr Warren’s
research showed that the lead in blood comes not from breathing airborne
lead but from eating and drinking it-that is, principally from soldered
food containers, lead-based paints and lead pipes.
In fact research showed that the blood lead levels
were higher in country people drinking bore water, such as the New
Guinea highlanders and peoples on remote islands, without motor vehicles
than in blood samples taken from those living in the heart of Melbourne.
You will recall in the past I have referred to a
device invented by Mr. A. Bodycomb. This device would do essentially the
same job as a catalytic converter, that is, remove carbon dioxide and
unburnt fuel from car exhausts, but it would also remove lead-so there
would be no need for ULP! This device was tested in the early ’70s, but
those testing it seemed conveniently to forget the test results later,
favouring instead the dry converter that we now have.
THE COMPOSITION OF PETROL
Last issue we discussed how there was little evidence
to support the claim that the octane-raising substances in unleaded
petrol are safer than the lead compound used. In fact, there was little
or no evidence to support the claim that lead in petrol has any effect
on the levels of lead in the blood. Unleaded technology means something
else is added to the petrol to maintain its octane number. What has not
been made very clear is that since about 1970 the lead content in leaded
petrol has been reduced. Policy has meant that, over time, lower and
lower maximum lead levels have been set. There are three main groups of
substances the oil companies use instead of lead.
Aromatics-organic compounds based on the benzene
ring, a 6-carbon ring with 3 delocalised double bonds, e.g., benzene,
toluene, xylene, etc.
Olefines-organic compounds which have double bonds.
After combustion, one critical by-product is 1,3-butadiene.
Oxygenates-organic compounds containing oxygen
molecules such as methane, ethane or MTBE (methyl-tertiary-butyl
ether). The US Environmental Protection Agency has targeted five toxic
air pollutants-benzene and 1,3-butadiene are the top two on the list.
They are both highly carcinogenic substances. 1,3-butadiene has only
just come to international attention.
Therefore, there is one very important question to
ask. What is the present composition of leaded, regular unleaded, and
premium unleaded fuel? In Australia, oil companies do not have to
release the exact formulas for making up the petrol mixtures. In Britain
it is the same as in Australia: the oil companies provide almost no
information about the chemical content of lead. In the US, oil companies
have to release the petrol formulae to the US EPA.
I managed to find an independent study, done by Dr
Michael Dawson and Mr. Noel Child of the University of Technology,
Sydney, which analysed the composition of many petrol samples from all
over Australia. They also compiled a table of petrol compositions from
many other countries. These figures came from the "International
Gasoline Survey, 1994", a report published annually by Associated
Using the figures for Australia as an example, in
regular unleaded petrol, the total aromatic content was 27.7%, and
benzene level at 2.0%. But, for leaded petrol, the total aromatic
content was 29.2%, and the benzene level at 2.1%. Wow! This means the
total aromatic content and the benzene levels are very similar-actually,
marginally higher in leaded petrol. If you look at all the other
countries in the tables, the percentage content of benzene and total
aromatics in leaded and regular unleaded petrol is also very similar.
Standard unleaded petrol has a lower octane number of
around 91, whereas leaded petrol has an octane number of 96 or higher.
The lead compound added is just enough to increase the octane number
from around 91 to over 96. Premium unleaded has an octane number of 96,
so it has much higher levels of aromatics-as well as benzene-than other
fuels. For premium unleaded petrol in Australia, the total aromatic
content was 36.4%, with benzene level of 3.3%. This analysis of
Australian petrol was conducted before 1st January 1995. At this time,
maximum lead levels were at 0.3 grams per litre. After 1st January 1995,
the maximum lead levels were reduced to 0.2 g/litre, which means that
more of these alternative additives-the aromatics, including benzene,
and/or olefines-have been used. So, leaded petrol today could have even
more alternative additives than regular unleaded petrol. Dr Michael
Dawson says that "Eventually, the lead content in leaded petrol
will be reduced to almost nil" in Australia, "and we will have
cars not fitted with catalytic converters spewing out tons more air
toxics each year than is currently the case."
The third group of alternative octane-raising
substances mentioned above are the oxygenates. A major by-product of
their combustion is acid aldehyde-the first substance the body produces
in the alcohol-detoxifying process. So it seems that the oxygenates are
less toxic than benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
Another advantage of oxygenates is that, because they
contain oxygen molecules, they cause the fuel to burn more
efficiently-and thus lowering the levels of all pollutants from car
emissions. Oil companies in Australia don’t use these oxygenates because
they are not by-products of petroleum production and would have to be
purchased from other chemical companies, thus making them more
The US EPA mandated that from 1st January this year,
a "reformulated gasoline" is to be sold in approximately 25%
of the USA.5 A limit of 1% of benzene (10% of total aromatic content) is
set for this fuel. EPA sources predict that market share for
reformulated gasoline will eventually be 70%.
The oxygenate MTBE is one of the substances of
concern, mentioned in the article extract from Dr Hans Nieper. (Note:
Australia is the only country listed in the tables whose petrol contains
no MTBE.) Taking this into consideration, ethanol and methanol may be
the safest additives-or should catalytic converters be phased out of
use? Definitely, many more studies have to done on the exact effects of
Dr Michael Dawson explains that when the oil
companies removed lead from US gasoline in the 1980s, the increased
aromatic content had two deleterious effects: "Firstly, air
pollution became worse because aromatic compounds are very
photochemically active. Secondly, tailpipe emissions of the carcinogen
BENZENE IN THE ATMOSPHERE
The carcinogen benzene is an inexpensive substitute
for lead. As an example, in Germany in 1993, 32 million tons of fuel
were burnt. Around 10 million tons of aromatics were in this fuel-and at
least three-quarters-of-a-million tons would have been benzene. A
significant amount of this fuel finds its way into the atmosphere as
benzene. In 1991 in Germany, about 100,000 tons of fuel escaped during
transport from refinery to filling station; 45,000 tons escaped while
gasoline was being pumped into gas tanks, and another 33,000 tons
escaped from car motors.
Dr Michael Dawson has taken benzene readings in
Sydney over an entire month in summer and an entire month in winter. The
measurements revealed average benzene levels of 4.1 parts per billion in
summer, and 7.6 p.p.b. in winter. Peak concentrations reached between 12
and 25 p.p.b. respectively. These readings were taken at the same place
in the city where carbon monoxide levels are monitored by the EPA.
Britain has recently adopted a maximum of 5 p.p.b. of benzene and has a
national target to decrease levels below 1 p.p.b.
Dr Michael Dawson says, "Australia has no safe
standard for benzene, and its environmental authorities do not carry out
regular monitoring."8 The Victorian EPA conducted a study in
1992-93 which found benzene levels in Melbourne’s inner suburbs of up to
6 p.p.b. This agency sets a preferred limit equal to about 30 p.p.b.
They quote studies which show that over 75% of benzene in the air of
industrialised cities comes from vehicle emissions. Tests of benzene
levels in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, measured statewide average values
of between 6 and 46 micrograms of benzene per cubic metre (approx. 2 to
15 p.p.b.). Traffic in Stuttgart produced monthly peak values of up to
62 micrograms (approx. 21 p.p.b.).
The Swabian Environment Minister, Harold Schäfer
commented that the levels were "Frightening, …indeed,
dramatically high." Harald Notter, spokesman for the environment
minister, aware that the Baden-Württemberg case is unique in Germany,
says, "Most of the German states approach the benzene issue with
great caution, afraid of the costs and perhaps also of the
results." In Britain in 1994, a cross-party group of MPs called on
the government to ban sales of super unleaded petrol. The recommendation
was one of many aimed at reducing air pollution.
The MPs said that evidence "strongly suggests
that the potential health hazards resulting from the excessive aromatics
used…outweigh any possible benefits from the reduced lead." They
would also like the composition of petrol to be publicised so that
people can judge for themselves the environmental effects of different
types of fuels. In Switzerland, it is now compulsory for every petrol
pump to be fitted with a negative-pressure vapour hood. This is a device
that pumps all the air that is displaced by the petrol, into a holding
tank. Therefore, the fumes do not escape into the atmosphere, and a
little petrol actually recondenses in the holding tank. They also use
this method in some parts of the US, but there are no plans to use these
in Britain or Australia.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF AROMATICS, ESPECIALLY BENZENE
Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, an occupational health
expert, believes the public had been misled by claims that by removing
the lead from petrol, its negative environmental and health effects have
been reduced. He says, "We have been subject to a concentrated
disinformation campaign in the form of a seductively simple ‘no lead, no
worries’ message." The US EPA claims that half of all cancer cases
may be related to air pollution. For a lifelong exposure to a microgram
of benzene per cubic metre (approx. 1 part per billion), it estimates
that 2.8 people per million will be diagnosed with leukaemia. The World
Health Organisation comes up with a figure of four leukaemia cases per
million, and the German Cancer Research Centre with nine projected
Professor Cesare Maltoni, of Italy’s Ramazzini
Foundation for Oncology and Environmental Science, has directed studies
showing that cancer is linked to substances from vehicle emissions. For
25 years his Foundation has tested on animals scores of substances found
in vehicle emissions. In 1977, Prof. Maltoni’s Foundation showed that
benzene was a powerful carcinogen causing many types of cancers,
particularly leukaemia. Many other aromatics were tested and they all
proved to be carcinogenic. Several other compounds contained in vehicle
emissions were also found to be carcinogenic.
Professor Maltoni said, "There are risks with
gasoline containing high aromatic hydrocarbons, risks with US gasoline
containing high paraffin content, and risks with oxygenate-additive
gasolines. Particular concern must be attached to gasolines with a high
aromatic hydrocarbon content. Benzene is one of the most powerful
industrial carcinogens. Alkyl benzenes likewise entail cancer
Many alkyl benzenes break down to benzene in the
combustion process. Dr Michael Dawson says that approximately 50% of the
benzene emitted from the exhaust comes from the actual benzene in the
fuel, 40% is from the toluene (methyl benzene), and 10% from other
aromatics in the fuel.
Dr Simon Wolff, of University College London School
of Medicine, was originally concerned about Britain’s nuclear power-
plants. He noticed a tenfold difference in childhood leukaemia rates
between certain populations, so he began searching for explanations. He
concluded that newer middle-class suburbs and towns with high levels of
car ownership and use were the most at risk. Dr Wolff says that
Britain’s plan to cut benzene levels to one p.p.b. is still not enough.
"We should be aiming to lower the lifetime risk of leukaemia to one
in a million, compared with 10,000 at present. To achieve that we have
to cut benzene levels by fifty- or one-hundredfold." Children could
develop cancer at much lower benzene exposure levels than adults,
because they breathe faster, have much faster metabolism, and their bone
marrow is more sensitive. Studies from Sweden have found unexpectedly
high levels of leukaemia in petrol-station workers.
Dr Michael Dawson asks, "Why are oil companies
allowed to substitute a carcinogen (or compounds which are converted to
a carcinogen) for a neurotoxin?" The carcinogen is released into
the air we breathe, while the neurotoxin it replaces comes out of the
exhaust as lead oxide or lead chloride which is baked hard and falls to
the ground near the road.
Professor Roger Perry says, "I find it really
difficult to understand how any government or any serious scientist
could take the issues of low levels of lead seriously, and decide to
ignore issues such as benzene where levels are already high enough for
Professor Bill McCarthy, head of the Sydney Melanoma
Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, says: "Benzene is a
highly carcinogenic agent. It causes lung tumours, liver tumours, renal
tumours, kidney tumours, leukaemia and skin tumours." The worrying
thing is that whether someone gets cancer from exposure to chemicals is
an individual thing; it all depends on tolerance levels. People can take
on a certain load of toxins, then all of a sudden a bit more will make
them really sick. For example, people afflicted with Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome may feel good one day, but the next day they can’t get out of
HEALTH HAZARDS OF AVIATION FUEL
Aviation fuel contains aromatics including benzene.
Michael Dawson, Brent Young and Noel Child have presented a report to a
Commonwealth Government Senate Committee on Air Traffic Noise in Sydney.
They suggest that with an already high base-concentration of benzene and
other pollutants from car emissions, the extra pollutants-especially
benzene from air traffic-put people under the flight path at extra-high
risk. Their report contains data showing quite high monthly average
benzene levels-up to 10.6-under the flight paths from Manchester
airport. They say it is "located in an essentially rural
environment, and these benzene concentrations can be reasonably assumed
to result almost entirely from aircraft rather than motor vehicle
WHICH FUEL TO USE?
In Australia, there is a campaign to encourage owners
of pre-1986 leaded petrol-run vehicles to use unleaded petrol. My
research shows there is little difference in the aromatic levels-so, on
that account, it should make no difference which you use. You’d swap a
little lead for 5 or 6 points of octane number.
With pre-1986 cars, if you do use ULP, the lack of
lead will cause the bores to wear out more quickly. Unless you have
hardened valve seats, they will slowly settle into the head (but, in any
case, the valve seats in today’s vehicles are not always hardened).
However, I would definitely not recommend using
premium unleaded fuel because of its much higher aromatic content. The
question remains to be asked: "Why are catalytic converters so
important to have fitted on cars designed for unleaded petrol, when the
leaded fuel we still buy for cars without catalytic converters contains
the same composition of aromatics?" In New Zealand the situation is
different. ULP technology has been introduced without any cars being
fitted with catalytic converters. (By the way, Associated Octel is the
company that makes the lead compound used in petrol. The petroleum
cartels once owned Associated Octel, and all but sold it off after the
introduction of unleaded technology-so any reintroduction of lead would
not be in their interests.)
CATALYTIC CONVERTER CHAOS
In theory, a catalytic converter is supposed to
convert 90% of the unburnt part of the fuel and turn it into a safer
substance. But in practice, as mentioned in the last issue, they take
10-15 minutes to warm up before they work, and they cease to work after
40,000 to 50,000 kilometres. So, much of the time, they’d definitely not
be doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
"They supposedly fall off" in efficiency,
"but there’s been no work done in this country on it," says
Ron Castaldi of the Australian Institute of Petroleum. In 1994, the
Australian Committee on Vehicle Emissions and Noise (ACVEN) started a
survey to check emissions from 600 cars nationwide. "Benzene is not
one of the controlled emissions," says Project Director Peter Anyon
of the Federal Office of Road Safety. Professor Roger Perry, Professor
of Environmental Control and Waste Management at London’s Imperial
College of Science, Technology and Medicine, asks, "Do you remove
95% of hydrocarbons when the catalyst is new, and then 60% in three
years’ time? Does the 60% mean the easy ones, and the difficult ones are
not being removed? No one can answer that. Benzene is a stable aromatic
material; the odds are that it would be one of the last to be oxidised.
The more inefficient the catalytic converter becomes, the more benzene
would get through the system."
Noel Child says it’s actually very similar technology
to the process used in oil refineries to make benzene from straight
chain molecules: it all depends on the operating conditions. The
manufacturers fit the converter, and away goes the car-but what’s really
going on there is a mystery. Hydrogen sulphide (rotten-egg gas)
emissions can also regularly be detected from cars with catalytic
converters. According to Noel Child, the gas tends to be emitted from
newer vehicles. H2S is a highly toxic substance able to attach itself to
haemoglobin and thus block oxygen absorption.
The extract later below is by Dr Hans Nieper of
Hannover, Germany, who has made some very interesting discoveries about
what actually goes on inside catalytic converters.
One thing that’s very apparent is that vested
interests want to withhold this information from the public. Aromatics
are the least expensive of the octane-number increasing fuel additives.
Having catalytic converters on cars makes many people believe that most
of the toxic fumes have been greatly reduced. But, for sure, there is
now greatly increased interest in this subject. For example, the Royal
College of Physicians, London, is having an International Air Toxics
Conference in November this year. At least two presentations will be
from Australia, with Noel Child presenting a paper titled, "In
Search of a Green Gasoline". Dr Michael Dawson and Noel Child will
also be presenting their research into benzene levels.
1. C. Simons telephone conversation with Dr
Michael Dawson, Department of Chemistry, University of Technology,
Sydney, Australia, May 1995.
2. Dr Michael Dawson and Noel Child,
"Study of Benzene Levels in Sydney", University of
Technology, Sydney, Australia, published August 1994.
3. Dr Michael Dawson, "Benzene, the
Devil Around the Corner", letter published in The Australian, 28
4. C. Simons telephone conversations with
Noel Child (Ph.D. pending), consulting engineer and lecturer in
Environmental Engineering at UTS, May 1995.
5. Dr Michael Dawson, "Not Overlooking
US Experience", The Australian, 19 September 1994.
6. Dr Michael Dawson, "No Simple
Solution to Lead-Free Petrol", The Daily Telegraph-Mirror, 10
7. In-House Staff, "Hushed-up
Dangers", Explore!, vol. 5, nos. 5 and 6, 1994.
8. Julian Cribb, "Cancer Chemical
Detected in Air", The Australian, 12 August 1994.
9. Simon Grose, "Choose Your
Poison," The Canberra Times, 26 March 1994.
10. "Ban Urged on Super Unleaded Fuel",
The Guardian Weekly [UK], 6 November 1994.
11. "No Turning Back to Leaded Petrol, Say
MPs", New Scientist, 29 April 1995.
12. Julian Cribb, "Scientists Debate
Carcinogenic Risk of Cars", The Weekend Australian, 13-14 August
13. Darcy Maddock, "Leaded Versus Unleaded
Petrols", Australasian Health and Healing, November 1994-January
14. C. Simons telephone conversation with Prof.
Bill McCarthy, Executive Director, The Sydney Melanoma Unit, Royal
Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia, May 1995.
15. Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D., N.D., The Cure For
HIV and Aids: With 70 Case Histories, ProMotion Publishing, San Diego,
California, USA, 1993.
16. Jack Haley, Manager, Vehicles and Environment,
NRMA, letter published in Australasian Health and Healing, vol. 14,
no. 2, February-April 1995.
17. "One Petrol Problem Swapped For Another:
Expert", Wheels Weekly [New Zealand], 11 November 1994.
18. Dr Michael Dawson, Brent Young and Noel Child,
"Air Quality Considerations, Kingsford Smith Airport",
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, May 1995.
19. Dr Hans Nieper, "Nerve Gas from Cars with
Catalytic Converters", letter published in Townsend Letter for
Doctors, December 1994.[* Note ref. Tables 1, 2, 3: RON = Research
Some of you may have read the latest edition of
"Steuerbegunstigter Lungenkrebs" [approx. translation,
"Tax- Privileged Lung Cancer"], the 100-page documentation
concerning the dreadful problems associated with platinum catalysts in
the exhaust gas systems of automobiles. Let me refer at this point to
this documentation: none of the facts I described in such documentation
has had to be revised or withdrawn to date. Car drivers are now being
confronted with the indirect economic problems I predicted in this
documentation: if the catalytic converter does not meet the [recently
introduced] compulsory exhaust gas tests which will occur rather often.
Repairs will have to be made which could pose an extreme burden for some
families, going as far as compelling them to skip their annual vacation,
I was slandered in a very ugly manner by ADAC [the
German automobile club] and by the industry, e.g., by the spokesman of
Shell AG, following the interview I gave on ZDF (right after the TV
series, Black Forest Clinic) in July 1987, because I wanted to make
people aware of the problems associated with benzene intoxication
through unleaded catalytic converter gas. What has become of this?
There is still too much benzene in the ‘cat. gas’.
This carcinogenic benzene which is easily soluble in fat, has even been
detected in candy bars sold at gas stations. After this, I was
disparaged because I attributed a potential carcinogenic effect to
toluene, a methyl benzene-large quantities of which are contained in
I had thought that I had described exhaustively the
information an analyses of the ‘cat.’ problem until 1991, as reported in
"Tax- Privileged Lung Cancer". However, the facts we have
gathered since April 1991 overshadow even the darkest fears we had
previously. For me, this new development started with a detailed feature
by Larry King-broadcast at Easter of 1991 by CNN-which I had the
opportunity to watch in Florida. Larry King is number one among all of
the highly efficient TV moderators in the US. The subject matter of the
discussion was the so-called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)-a recently
discovered disease in the US. It has also occurred in Japan
("man-killing syndrome"), in large Australian cities (where
they drive Japanese cars), and particularly in Switzerland.
The symptoms of CFS are as follows: people become
tired and exhausted, even during the day after having slept well the
night before. A little over 60% become easily depressed. This depression
does not react to the usual antidepressants. Furthermore, various
chronic infections occur-in particular, infections of the lymph system,
of the urinary passage and the respiratory tract-frequently accompanied
by lymphoma and chronic tonsil enlargements. For this reason, it is now
believed in Germany that CFS has to be a "virus disease". As
long as 10 years ago when CFS was first observed in resorts situated at
Lake Tahoe, patients showed a dominant infection with herpes viruses or
the presence of very high herpes immune titres (IGG herpes titres).
Since that time, many publications have been written on the infection
problems of CFS patients, which all come to one conclusion: in the case
of CFS, all kinds of infections occur in an accumulated manner, in
particular through herpes (potentially carcinogenic and causing
leukaemia), with cytomegalic viruses (also carcinogenic with respect to
the kidneys and other abdominal organs), all kinds of bacterial
pathogenic organisms, which are, in part, highly toxic and may lead to
life-threatening pneumonia, and, finally, mycosis is frequently detected
in CFS patients.
The conclusion from all these observations: In the
case of CFS, there is severe general lowered resistance, which is mainly
found in the cellular areas, i.e. in the area of cell membranes. This
infectious, unspecific mixed evidence is called "occupational"
infection, the main cause of which is lowered resistance.
Based on the extremely good information provided by
the Larry King program on CNN, it became evident that CFS is
unequivocally connected to the spread of catalytic converters in
automobiles. Shortly after my return from the US in 1991, everything
went like clockwork:
A leading American platinum metallurgist pointed
out to me that a catalyst must produce phosgene whenever chlorides are
present in gasoline. This is virtually always the case. Not until 1993
did a fuel-producer provide the information that a certain compound of
chlorine was being used as an "additive" in gasoline.
Phosgene (COC14) is a war gas, used in World War I, with a toxic
effect on the lungs.
Mr K., who has unfortunately died in the meantime,
and who had constant access to all of the new technical developments
by Volkswagen at Wolfsburg, came to meet me, showing all signs of
outright panic: "Volkswagen gave me the order to cause Gotze
plant at Burscheid to develop piston packings which are so tight that
you cannot think of anything tighter." This has a chemical
background: unleaded cat. gasoline contains high quantities of MTBE
(methyl-tert-butyl ether), which is necessary as an anti-knock
substance (replacing tetraethyl lead [TEL]). In the meantime, the MTBE
content has been increased in order to facilitate a higher specific
engine performance. For the same reason, by the way, the benzene share
of 5% has remained unchanged and is ‘criminally’ high. (In the US,
this share is 1%.) Engine oil contains an additive, zinc
dithiophosphate [ZDTP], which cannot be dispensed with as it
guarantees the longevity of engine oil. "If MTBE and ZDTP
interact under heat, obviously something catastrophic is going to
happen," Mr. K. said. If MTBE and ZDTP interact, phosphoric ester
and similar compounds may be created, which fit into the group of
nerve gases (Tabun, Sarin, E-605, etc.). At the end of 1993, I turned
to a highly qualified full professor of the Medical School at Hannover
concerning this problem. He asserted that, besides phosphoric esters
and phosphines, the MTBE-ZDTP reaction could generate enols which
block vital enzymes more than hydrogen sulphide (H2S) does, also
coming out of the car cat. in huge quantities.
Shortly after Mr. K.’s visit, Mr. v.W. of Hannover,
unfortunately also deceased in the meantime, turned to me: "My
little son caught a large number of houseflies alive. We held one half
of these flies in a net approximately 50 centimetres [approx. 20
inches] behind the exhaust of quite an old car. The flies were rather
groggy, but they survived. The other half was held behind a cat.
exhaust. All of them were dead after 110 seconds, it being noticeable
that they died virtually all at once." This was Mr. v.W.’s
description. The occurrence of death "all at once", i.e.,
without a broader statistical distribution over a certain period of
time, is typical of the effects of phosphoric esters and/or enols-that
is, of substances that can block the cellular respiratory chains.
Since 1986, an assembly foreman or engineer working
for Mercedes-Benz in Sindelfingen has contacted me several times by
telephone. He reported a sudden introduction of protective measures for
the cat. assembly, and other measures which were supposed to be kept
secret according to Mercedes-Benz and which were related to the platinum
problems. In 1991, this gentlemen called me once more: "Doctor,
please help us! The exhaust of the cat. gasoline cars (not the cat.
diesel cars) releases toxic gas, and this to a very high degree. The
problem is especially critical after the car has been driven for about
15,000 kilometres [approx. 9,400 miles], when the gaskets are no longer
in peak condition." About three days after this late evening call,
I heard a report on my car radio, according to which Mercedes-Benz had
given out a warning concerning the "toxic side-effects" of the
catalytic converter technology which could become "important after
the car had been driven for about 15,000 kilometres." As far as I
know, diesel fuel does not contain any MTBE, so that the production of
nerve gas is not to be expected with a diesel car. This was about the
state of our knowledge concerning the problem associated with nerve
gas-except for the enol aspect -until the end of 1992. I had a report on
this topic published in Townsend Letter for Doctors in July 1991. Due to
the extreme explosiveness of this subject, TLfD published my information
in the most expedient way. And, of course, all Raum & Zeit readers
are aware of the problem. No action, however, has been taken by Topfer,
the Minister for the Environment, who is responsible-as was the case
after 1987 concerning the benzene problem. In the meantime, the
occurrence of CFS has increased in Germany, but life goes on in the same
old way. I also believed that everything had been said concerning the
subject of catalytic converters and nerve gas-until, in 1993, a cruel
discovery was made. "Since the end of ’92, beginning ’93, we are
constantly having increased haemoglobin [Hb] levels in many of our
patients. Where the level used to be 13 or 13.5, we now have 16,
sometimes 17 and more. Please check the measuring methods." Mrs.
Rau, a medical technologist in my laboratory, responded, however, that
all values had been checked but that the Hb levels have constantly risen
since about March 1993, namely in steadily rising increments over a
period of several months. I had this phenomenon of the steady increase
in haemoglobin levels checked again in our independent hospital
laboratory, with the same results. This Hb-level increase was mainly
observed in patients who were not seriously sick and, thus, whose bone
marrow was capable of regulation in a normal manner. Then Nurse Monika
told me: "The leucocyte count also increased last year on
average." This observation, too, proved to be correct. Hundreds of
patients which I was able to check again in ’93 to compare the levels
with previous years, showed this phenomenon of a rather drastic Hb
increase. Some of my colleagues noted similar observations. On the
occasion of a lecture at Langenhagen, where I talked about this increase
of Hb levels, laymen also reported that they had been informed by their
physicians in this respect. Such increases of Hb levels are, to a broad
extent, typical for an oxygen deficiency; for example, in persons who
constantly live at high altitudes. This is a normal adaptation of the
blood formation to oxygen deficiency. Actually, the Hb-level increase in
many controlled patients is very much associated with a decrease of P02
in the blood, thus with a reduction of the oxygen partial pressure in
blood, even if this reduction is only slight.
Which factor is responsible for this impediment to
oxygen absorption? Practically, only the abovementioned toxic gases from
cat. cars come into consideration-no alternative is in sight. In fact,
this phenomenon does not occur in inhabitants of the North Sea islands
(where the wind blows from the seaside). Furthermore, we did not observe
this phenomenon in rechecked patients from large agricultural regions in
midwestern US; however, we did find it in patients living in the east
and north-west of the US and, in 1993, in persons living in California.
Why weren’t we able to observe this phenomenon to such a noticeable
degree in 1991 or in 1992? Well, 1993 was a very humid year, the
previous years had very dry weather. Phosphoric esters (nerve gas),
minor traces of which are capable, like enols, of restricting the oxygen
absorption of cells, are likely to adhere to tiny drops of water and
thus are readily absorbed by the biosystem. In times of dryness, these
substances degrade faster and are scarcely inhaled. In ’93, it was
raining almost all the time in Germany, and in California there were
steaming and heavy cyclical showers.
An increased susceptibility to infections and
irritations of the bronchial passages was observed in all patients. This
was not a particularly pleasant observation, but another serious
discovery was added in the fall of ’93. For about 18 years, clinical
oncologists have noticed that patients having cancer, a predisposition
for cancer, osteoporosis or an illness of the immunological system such
as multiple sclerosis, very often showed rather low urea levels in the
blood serum, while the creatinine levels did not show this drop so
clearly. Then, in 1987, Amat, the Spanish biochemist and neurologist,
issued a l,000-page monograph on the biochemical importance of urea.
This study only exists in Spanish, but it is, however, indispensable for
every oncologist and immunologist. Amat was able to show that urea in
the blood serum is not only a substance that is present as a catabolite
of the protein metabolism for output through the kidneys, but that urea
in the blood creates a large pool with automatic control functions of
fundamental importance. Ureal metabolism has a regulative function for
at least seven further metabolitic pools, or vice versa. Amat described
this system as being a communicative machinery which includes the
pyruvate and glutamate cycles, as well as elements of the lipido
Experience has taught us that the urea level in blood
serum should be approx. 37 mg%. [In the US, BUN ranges from 10 to 25 -TLfD
Ed.] If it rises much higher, there can be kidney damage. This is a
known fact. If the level, however, is lower, the organism is at great
risk in the long run. The frequency of cancer increases. At levels of
less than approx. 17 mg%, multiple tumours have occurred quite often.
This connection is very probable in cases of predisposition for
melanomatosis in patients normally having a clean skin. Very often,
there is a correlation between multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, as well
as illness of the immunological system and very low urea levels.
Over the last 15 years, we have attempted to explore
the phenomenon of low urea levels. However, this is quite impossible
without having read Amat’s ‘fat volume’. Obviously, the cellular
biologic structure has been linked to urea for millions of years as an
indispensable factor for the stability of membrane and gene structures.
Or, the functions of the abovementioned metabolic machinery have to be
adjusted so that a ‘complete’ urea pool would be the result. If this is
not the case, for whatever reason, the cell membranes and the gene
systems tend to show instability. And this has serious consequences for
keeping an organism healthy.
We have observed in many patients whose haemoglobin
levels increased in 1993 that they had reduced urea levels also. This
was particularly the case in patients who had relatively low levels and
low blood pressure previously. Also, the triglyceride levels seem to
decrease. It seems as if the abovementioned toxic substances produced by
the catalytic converter have led not only to latent, very slowly
developing damage to the ‘Amat machinery’ but also to a reduction of the
urea pool. If this is the case-and I have virtually no doubts in this
respect-this would be an extremely threatening development. One more
thing which we noticed was that in patients with ALS (amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis) we also found low urea levels. ALS, contrary to
multiple sclerosis, is not a disease of the immunological system. In
cases of ALS, you find a defect of the capability to inactivate viruses
of the measles group and, in particular, the cellular incapacity of
zymogenesis, called SOD (super-oxide-dismutase). This SOD, however, is
necessary in order to prevent toxic oxidative radicals and heavy metals
from damaging nerve cells. We are positive on one point: the many ALS
patients observed by us frequently come from regions with cat. cars. The
situation is becoming worse. However, the connection between the cat.
car and ALS will have to be examined in longer term studies.
Being a well-known critic of the catalytic converter,
I am frequently asked what I would recommend, in particular with respect
to the threatening aspects described herein. First of all, all catalytic
converters should be removed from cars as soon as possible. A parallel
measure should be the removal of MTBE and, to the extent possible, of
benzene, too, from gasoline. As a next step, gasoline should be slightly
leaded again, but just to the necessary extent. ‘Intrinsic’ combustion
in gasoline engines should be optimised as suggested as a preferential
solution, by Peugeot and Citroen President Jacques Calvet in three
letters he sent me. One way to achieve this is to lead the fuel or the
gas mixture through magnetic fields. Another good procedure would be the
use of high-energy ignitions of mainly non-ohmic power quality
(so-called plasma ignition based on the Tesla phenomenon). These
procedures allow a lean-mixture [lean-burn] operation, reducing the
toxic burden from the exhaust.
The fact that ADAC [German automobile club], Stern [a
German news magazine] and other organs have been discrediting this
technique over the years in a most nasty manner, speaks for itself. ADAC
has been aware of the problems related to the catalytic converter for
more than eight years. The manner in which this problem has acquired
criminal relevance, in view of latest knowledge, will have to be judged
by the competent institutions. I further recommend buying nothing but a
diesel, when the purchase of a new car is being considered. German,
French and Swedish companies offer diesel cars with excellent quality
which, in principle, are superior to gasoline-operated cars anyway.
However, these recommendations only have a limited
perspective. Many readers might not know that the end of gasoline-and
diesel fuel-has been introduced as of 1st January 1998, namely by a
Californian law. Two per cent of all cars sold under one brand must be
exhaust-free; if not, this brand must refrain from selling cars
entirely. Only three years later, this regulation will become more
strict. There will be no recognition of the brand all over the world if
there are no sales in the US.
As battery-operated vehicles will remain
insignificant due to physics principles, only a driving mechanism with
combustion water, a preliminary stage of oxyhydrogen gas, will come into
consideration. It will be generated by converted vacuum-field energy in
the car using only water, maybe with a low addition of gasoline, diesel
or hydrogen. There is no alternative to this concept except, at best,
the so-called Shoulders conversion (Toyota project). I am very often
asked the question of how to protect oneself against the cat. danger in
Theoretically, coenzyme Q10 (hydroquinone) should
help a bit. However, we did not notice any positive effects with it.
Better would be a mixture of potassium-magnesium aspartate together with
a urea solution (phone +49 (511) 34 1387). This improves the supply of
high-energy phosphates in cellular metabolism. I highly recommend taking
vitamin Mi (colaminphosphate salts, Ca-RMg-AEP) in the form of grains in
capsules. Tablets with a thick coating are not as easily absorbed by
patients with membrane damage. Under this treatment with about three to
five capsules a day, oxygen absorption through the lungs into the blood
is improved. Nevertheless, there is no alternative: catalytic converter
poison must be removed from the air, and quickly!
THE COMPOSITION OF PETROL part 2.
In regard to additives in our petrol, the main
question that needs to be asked is: "Why was all the fuss made
about one toxic substance-lead-in our petrol, when the substances that
have replaced it-benzene, other aromatics and olefines-appear to be more
toxic?’ It seems to me that if the genuine reason for taking lead out of
petrol was for health reasons, efforts would have been made to ensure
that what was used as a substitute was safer. There was little, if any,
coverage at the time about what would be used instead of lead. In fact,
petroleum companies, in Australia at least, don’t even have to disclose
the formulae they use to make up the petrol. Note that catalytic
converters would quickly become useless if lead were in the petrol.
Benzene is a well-known carcinogen. Many medical
studies have proved this to be the case. For example, Prof. Bill
McCarthy, Executive Director of the Sydney Melanoma Unit, Royal Prince
Alfred Hospital, is extremely concerned about the benzene levels in
Sydney’s centre and under aeroplane flight paths. Dr Michael Dawson and
Noel Child have taken benzene levels in Sydney and shown they are
extremely high. Average levels were at 4.1 parts per billion (ppb) in
summer and 7.6 ppb in winter, peaking at 12 ppb and 25 ppb respectively.
Toluene levels were much higher. Other cities around the world also show
high levels. Britain has adopted a maximum of 5 ppb, with a national
target to decrease levels below 1 ppb.
Benzene levels in fuels are around 2-3%, but total
aromatics are between 20-40%. It is important to realise that when these
aromatics are combusted, a large percentage comes out in the exhaust as
benzene-so the levels of benzene would be much higher than first
expected. Many other aromatic substances also exist in exhaust gases,
but all their effects, as well as human tolerance levels, have not been
fully researched. Prof. Maltoni of Italy has directed studies
researching the biological effects of benzene and many other substances
from vehicle emissions. No studies have been done in Australia even to
try to determine the total composition of exhausts. One study, directed
by Peter Anyon of the Federal Office of Road Safety, is analysing
exhausts from 600 cars in order to find quick, cheap exhaust-monitoring
methods and to determine whether subsequent appropriate mechanical work
will reduce emissions. Initially the study was testing only for
substances that are well known as problematic, i.e., listed in the
Australian Design Rules as dangerous. These are total hydrocarbons,
oxides of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. But last year, when it became
more well-known that benzene was a problem, an extension was added to
the study to measure seven speciated hydrocarbon levels in 50 of the
vehicles being tested. These include benzene, xylenes (three species),
toluene, and 1,3-butadiene. It’s a start.
Dr Hans Nieper reports on a new exhaust substance
apparently produced in the catalytic converter, the consequences of
which are quite shocking. What other reactions are occurring in
catalytic converters that we don’t know about? Are there any other
dangerous exhaust gases whose effects we are yet to discover or fully
realise? An important product of the combustion of olefines is
1,3-butadiene, another substance that scientists have only recently
discovered to be highly toxic. Much more research is needed here.
One other key aspect of all this is that the lead
levels in leaded petrol have also been reduced. In fact, the benzene and
total aromatics levels in leaded and standard unleaded petrol are
virtually the same in many countries. The additional lead content is the
only major difference between standard ULP and leaded petrol. The levels
of benzene and other aromatics in premium unleaded fuel are extremely
high-so I would urge people never to use this fuel.
Lead itself is undeniably a toxic substance. Much
research has been done around the world to show its toxicity and
effects. However, studies have failed to show the correlation between
lead in petrol and lead in blood. It seems that the lead from petrol
exhausts has low bioavailability. Proper studies in these areas urgently
need to be carried out. There are many other sources of lead in our
environment, such as lead water pipes, lead solder used in canned foods,
lead paint, etc. From his research, environmental health consultant Dr
Alan Bell says we should be looking at trying to get rid of flaking lead
paint in old houses. He says studies have shown this to be a major
source of lead in blood. It does seem strange to me to replace a brain
toxin that falls to the ground straight after coming out of the exhaust,
with a gas that is released into our atmosphere and is well known as a
highly toxic carcinogen.
I’ve received three letters telling me that the
National Society for Clean Air in the UK has not withdrawn support for
ULP. An extract from the society’s letter to members states: "NSCA
members may have seen an article in The Sunday Times of 12/12/93,
claiming that the society has ‘withdrawn its approval’ for unleaded
petrol because of concern about benzene emissions. This is untrue; the
article quoted selectively from a long briefing given to the journalist
in question and seriously misrepresented the society’s position."
Next is a letter I thought was worth reprinting, as
it offers another perspective on some parts of our previous articles and
suggests some interesting alternatives. I read with interest the above
article compiled by Catherine Simons. It is not correct to say that
early cars ran on exceptionally clean fuel; the quality was variable to
say the least… The emissions of early cars were anything but clean, as
the combustion process was a very hit-and-miss affair…
An engine cannot and never could produce only carbon
dioxide and water vapour as the exhaust gas components; this works only
in theory when complete combustion (or oxidation) takes place. There are
a number of reasons for this which include:
the speed of the engine limiting the time available
to burn the fuel;
the type and design of the combustion chamber;
the valve timing of the engine;
fuel retention around the piston ring lands;
fuel separation in the inlet manifold.
Power increases in motor vehicle engines were brought
about not so much by increased compression ratios, but by the
bore-to-stroke ratio. A short-stroke engine would be faster than a
long-stroke. In this country [England] we suffered the setback of the
Treasury rating for engines which, by the nature of the formula used,
made the short-stroke engine prohibitively expensive to use from an
owner’s point of view, and consequently the only alternative was the
long-stroke-good for torque output, but poor for high-speed running.
Bugatti used to tease Bentley about his "racing lorries"…
Nitrogen, of which there is about 79% in the atmosphere, was never a
problem, as, being inert, it was unaffected by combustion. Only when
combustion temperatures reach figures of 2,500°ree;C and above is the
nitrogen oxidised, and it then produces four oxides which, in
combination with hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight, produces a
The worst of these oxides is nitrogen dioxide, which
is a reddish-brown gas, an irritant, a supposed carcinogen, and which
causes respiratory inflammation. The catalytic converter was the worst
possible answer to the problem of emissions. The solution was obvious-at
least to British engineers: the way forward was by lean-burn technology.
Not for the first time we led the rest of the world in this field, but a
political decision opted for the use of converters.
From a logical point of view, using two very precious
metals as catalysts is a crazy idea: platinum is obvious; less obvious
is rhodium, until you realise that 99% of all rhodium mined comes from
South Africa. If, at any future time, problems arose whereby it would
not be possible to trade with South Africa, then the consequences would
be obvious. Having watched America at work with catalytic converters for
a number of years, it was obvious even to the meanest
intelligence-including bureaucrats-that the system was not an effective
remedy; so, naturally, the thing to do was then adopt the American
(Californian) system in total and apply it to Europe, taking care to
ignore the fact that the conditions in the two locations were completely
different, and therefore the figures were meaningless.
Catalytic converters take time to warm up, and until
they do so they are every bit as ‘dirty’ as a vehicle without one. In
fact, the ‘bad egg’ smell which emanates from the exhaust is hydrogen
sulphide, a gas which is thought by some experts to be highly
carcinogenic. Unfortunately big money/business is involved, and this
almost always clouds the facts and the truth. For some inexplicable
reason, vested interests always seem to be mutually exclusive to the
truth. With lead in fuel, although it was by no means ideal, at least we
knew where it was going. Now, with the emission gases being lighter,
they may well be collecting but at a higher point off the ground, and it
may be years before we see what the results of this will be.
The picture is not entirely gloomy, however; there
are very positive aspects to all of this, and to the way forward in the
short, medium and long term. The informed thinking for the future is:
A lean-burn catalyst. This is very different to the
present idea, in that it seeks to remove oxygen from an oxygen-rich
environment, so that the nitrogen will once again emerge from the
exhaust pipe as nitrogen-but without the oxides.
The use of specialised upper-cylinder lubricants.
These are already available, and everyday motorists can add these to a
tank of fuel, safe in the knowledge that they can do something to
improve the air quality and reduce the pollutants emitted from their
Other options are also available to use a fuel with a
reduced carbon content. One possibility in this field is methane, which
has only one carbon atom (compared to octane, for example, which has
eight). This will have the immediate effect of reducing carbon dioxide.
The idea of the battery car, when examined for a moment, is really a
non-starter (no pun intended!). Although, when it is running, it is
indeed almost pollution-free, the power consumed to make the batteries
is considerable. The power-to-weight factor is as yet unacceptable, the
fuel consumed at the power station to recharge the batteries is high,
and, lastly, lead-acid batteries are difficult to dispose of when their
useful life is over.
One idea which I am actively working on is steam. It
has every possible advantage (and none of the disadvantages mentioned
above): maximum power and torque at standstill, recycled exhaust,
therefore zero emissions (if there were any emissions they would be only
water vapour). The engine would only need to be a three-cylinder
two-stroke, equivalent to a six-cylinder four-stroke: very few moving
parts ensures reliability and performance. The heat source: a hydrogen
catalyst, providing motive power within 10 seconds of starting.
The problem with this design? Apathy/animosity from
the ‘vested interests’. There is no doubt that this design will not meet
with their approval as it is contrary to their thinking at this time. It
requires people with vision and commitment to back this idea in order
that it may work…
Yours faithfully, Douglas Wragg, I. Eng., L.A.E.,
M.I.M.I., M.I.R.T.E., F.Diag.E., Road Transport Consultant Engineer,
Balcombe, Sussex, England, UK.
1. Professor Bill McCarthy, Melanoma Unit, Royal
Prince Alfred Hospital, "Submission to the Senate Select
Committee on Aircraft Noise in Sydney", 8 May 1995 .
2. Dr Alan Bell, Public Health Bulletin, March
1995; S. Corbett and C. Cowie, Public Health Bulletin, November 1993.
3. Telephone conversation between C. Simons and
Peter Anyon, Director, Regulation Policy and Projects, Federal Office
of Road Safety, Canberra, ACT, Australia, July 1995.
4. Simon Grose, The Canberra Times, 26 March 1994.
5. Telephone conversation between C. Simons and Dr
Alan Bell, Environmental Health Consultant, Mosman, Sydney, Australia,
6. National Society for Clean Air (UK), Briefing to
Members, 1994.General reference: Telephone conversation between C.
Simons and Brian Wells, Australian Automobile Association, July 1995.