Crime and Motor Fuel Anti-Knock Mixture

Tetraethyllead as an additive to petrol reduce engine knocking and increase the fuel’s octane rating. As an anti-knock mixture, tetraethyllead was widely used in the past century until it was found that the lead in the fuel endangers environment and causes much damage to health.

Sources for lead poisoning includes certain lead containing paints, contaminated soil and water, lead containing products such as certain kohl, some herbal medicines of India and China etc.

Health issues related to lead poisoning may show symptoms such as headache, irritability, reduced sensations, aggressive behavior, difficulty in sleeping, abdominal pain, poor appetite, constipation, anemia. Complications in children may include loss of developmental skills, hearing loss, behavior, attention problems, and kidney damage, reduced IQ, slowed body growth.

‘The Crime Conundrum’, presented by Dominic Casciani, on BBC Radio 4, explores the rise of crime for the most of 20th century and how the trend started reversing in past two decades, i.e, when leaded petrol was out of use.

Your may read Dominic Casciani’s article here or listen via iPlayer

A timeline of Lead Reduction - Source
A timeline of Lead Reduction – Source


Mixture of tetraethyllead or tetramethyllead with ethylene dibromide and ethylene dichloride is extremely toxic and some flammable. In Dangerous Goods Transport Regulations this mixture is listed under

  • UN 1649, MOTOR FUEL ANTI-KNOCK MIXTURE, Class 6.1, Toxic
  • UN 3483, MOTOR FUEL ANTI-KNOCK MIXTURE, FLAMMABLE, Class 6.1, Subsidiary Risk Class 3, Toxic + Flammable.

Further reading:   ‘The Crimes Of Lead’

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