Dáil Éireann - Volume 344 - 07 July, 1983
Written Answers. - Lead Pollution.
Mr. De Rossa Mr. De Rossa
231. Mr. De Rossa asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware of a recent report produced by the University of Aberystwyth which showed that there was a dangerous level of lead pollution in vegetables grown in a number of areas in the UK as a result of the levels of lead in petrol; the measures that are being taken at present to monitor the level of lead pollution in vegetables grown or sold in Ireland; if he has satisfied himself that the level of lead in petrol on sale in this country does not constitute a general health hazard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. De Rossa Mr. De Rossa
274. Mr. De Rossa asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware of the decision by the British Government to implement a timetable for the introduction of lead-free petrol; and if he will consider the introduction of a similar programme in this country.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Spring) Dick Spring
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Spring): I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 274 together.
I am aware of the existence of the report referred to and understand that it suggested that vegetables grown in a number of areas in the United Kingdom were contaminated by lead pollution from vehicle exhausts. Responsibility for monitoring the levels of lead in vegetables rests under the Health (Arsenic and Lead in Food) Regulations, 1972, with my colleague, the Minister for Health. I understand from his Department that samples of vegetables are taken regularly by personnel of the health boards for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the regulations and that none of these have revealed levels of lead in vegetables being sold for human consumption in excess of the levels permitted in the Regulations.
I am aware of the recent decision of the British Government in regard to the level of lead in petrol. This matter is  regulated by an EEC Directive of 29 June 1978 with which this country fully complies. The development of Community policy in this area was discussed at a Council of Environment Ministers held in Luxembourg on 16 June. At that meeting I indicated that on environmental and health grounds Ireland welcomed any initiative designed ultimately to achieve the total elimination of lead from petrol sold in the Community. I stated that I recognised the importance of developing Community policy on a matter which has undoubtedly become a source of major public disquiet and that I was happy to support in principle a policy of lead free petrol. In line with this I assured my colleagues that Ireland would adopt a positive attitude towards detailed proposals which would take into account, in a realistic way, the technical and economic implications of such a policy.
I further stated that as Ireland has relatively little involvement in the design and manufacture of motor vehicles, and as over 60 per cent of our petrol is at present imported, any major changes in policy on lead in petrol in this country would be affected substantially by developments in other countries. I also noted that the practical realities of the situation were that it would take a considerable time for the motor industry, the oil industry and petrol retailers, as well as the ordinary motorist, to adapt to a situation where only unleaded petrol could be used.
The Council of Environment Ministers agreed that all member states would try to reduce as much as possible the amount of lead used in petrol, ending up perhaps with the use of unleaded petrol, and it asked the Commission to submit appropriate proposals for this purpose. The Council will be examining an interim report on the matter at its next meeting with a view to detailed examination of the Commission's proposals which are to be presented around mid-April 1984.
Dáil Éireann 344 Written Answers. Lead Pollution.