Neurotoxic petrol additive MMT: Finally banished.
The proactive move by the Union Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, to ascertain the status of the use of the MMT, a manganese-based deadly octane enhancer in petrol, has elicited voluntary admission from the national oil companies that they have stopped blending MMT in petrol. The minister stepped in after the Centre for Science and Environment drew attention to the insidious entry of the deadly poison. This is the first instance ever of Indian oil companies volunteering to stop the use of a harmful substance in the face of strong public concern.
New Delhi, June 23, 2005: The Centre for Science and Environment welcomes the swift intervention of the Union Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, to ascertain the status of the use of the MMT (methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl), a manganese-based octane enhancer in petrol. This has elicited voluntary admission from the national oil companies that they have stopped blending MMT in petrol. For the first time Indian oil companies have volunteered to discontinue the use of a harmful substance in the face of strong public concern. Following a similar voluntary decision by the oil majors in the US and Canada, MMT business had just about begun to shift its base to Asia and Africa. This proactive move by the government stalls its insidious entry into India.
In a written communiqué to CSE, the Union Petroleum Minister has affirmed:
"I have got the reports from our oil PSUs. I have been informed that except for Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL), which uses marginal quantities of MMT as a trimming agent for a marginal increase in the octane number of motor spirit, other public sector oil refineries are not using MMT any more. You will be glad to learn that NRL too will discontinue the use of MMT by March 2006 by when the new facilities being set up by them for producing motor spirit are expected to be completed."
This affirmation comes soon after Mr Aiyar’s assurance made to CSE in the first week of May, when he stated, "I am having the matter looked into." We are happy to note that the minister has responded to the public concern after we had drawn attention to the blending of this deadly poison and sought the minister’s immediate intervention to stop MMT use at the national level.
With this proactive support, India has been quick to bring to a halt the use of MMT before the business could grow. This close encounter with the toxic trade underscores the importance of constant regulatory vigil to prevent a splatter of noxious additives in the fuel stream. After this step forward, the country urgently needs a comprehensive fuel additive policy to screen additives for hazards and to prevent any adverse fallout in future. The producers and sellers of fuel additives must be made liable and made to bear the burden of proof to provide clear evidence that these do not harm public health.
In March this year, CSE had issued a public alert noting with deep concern and shock over the use of MMT in petrol by oil companies in India. We had demanded urgent national action to save the country from falling prey to the lethal neurotoxin. Manganese particles from MMT blended petrol damage the brain and also foul up emission control components in vehicles.
MMT: deadly facts
Global studies on the health impact of manganese emissions/particles bring out the acute toxic effects of manganese emissions. Fine particles laden with manganese oxides melt in the blood more readily, and travel to the brain more rapidly. They can enter the brain through the nasal passages without circulating in the blood first. The clearance rate of manganese from the brain is slower than the absorption rate! The adverse effects are so subtle and difficult to detect initially that it could lead to widespread damage before use is stopped. The symptoms of manganese neurotoxicity are similar to that of Parkinson’s disease.
Damages to emission control technologies
Global car makers in the US and Canada, including BMW, Daimler Chrysler, Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Mitsubishi and Porsche, among others, state categorically in their respective warranties for cars, that they do not recommend the use of petrol that contains MMT, as it adversely affects the spark plug and emissions systems.
Society of Indian automobile manufacturers has also conveyed its concern over the use of MMT to the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Studies have demonstrated that gaseous emissions can increase by as much as 118 to 143 per cent due to the damaged emissions control system caused by manganese deposits. It also lowers fuel economy. Evidence from China shows red manganese deposits on catalytic converters after 20,000 miles. Huge investments made on advanced catalyst technologies to meet tighter emissions norms can go waste if manganese deposits plug and choke such sensitive equipment quickly.
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