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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 12:18 GMT
Africa switches to unleaded fuel
Cars in Johannesburg
Unleaded fuel causes less environmental damage
Sub-Saharan Africa will meet a deadline to use only unleaded petrol by the end of 2005, the United Nations says.

Lead additives in petrol, linked to disease and environmental damage, are being phased out worldwide.

South Africa, the last sub-Saharan country to complete the changeover, is on track for the 31 December deadline.

The change stems from a pledge made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, when almost all Africa was still using leaded fuel.

Klaus Toepfer, the head of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (Unep), described the continent-wide changeover to unleaded fuel as "a real environmental and health achievement".

"I pay tribute to all those governments, companies and others such as the World Bank who kept this promise," he said.

Lead is associated with a wide range of health problems, including damage to the brains of babies and young children.

Leaded fuel has already been phased out in most developed countries, but is still in use in some North African and Asian countries.

Earlier this month, the changeover in South Africa caused fuel shortages throughout southern Africa, as refineries shut down temporarily while they underwent the modifications needed to produce only unleaded fuel.

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