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West Europe revs up no-lead gas campaign

The European Parliament has begun to fuel the campaign for lead-free gasoline in Western Europe. The environment committee of the European Community's parliamentary body in late April urged EC policymakers to rewrite existing legislation to allow the product to be put on the market beginning in 1985.

The move comes only weeks after the British government announced that by 1990 all new cars would be required to run on lead-free gasoline.

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Unlike United States law, which has required all new cars to run on unleaded gas since 1975, legislation in Western Europe still prevents governments from forcing oil companies to sell the product. An EC directive adopted in 1978 sets the maximum and minimum allowable lead levels in gasoline at 0.40 grams and 0.15 grams per liter, respectively. So far, only four of the 10 EC countries have opted for the lower limit.

''The problem with the directive,'' Ken Collins, chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Consumer Protection, explains, ''is that it actually prevents EC member countries from introducing unleaded petrol (gas) by setting the lower limit.''

Those pressing for lead-free gasoline in Western Europe say the committee's vote April 28 could signal other EC institutions to act on the question. scheduled for debate by the full Parliament in mid-June. Final approval must be given by the EC council of environment ministers.

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