MMT On Its Way Out in Canada

Sierra Club of Canada

December 16th, 2004

(Ottawa) The controversial fuel additive, MMT, may finally be disappearing from Canadian gas. A recent survey by Sierra Club of Canada revealed that virtually every major refiner of gasoline in Canada has started phasing out MMT, a manganese based replacement for lead. Like lead, manganese is neuro-toxic. MMT is also a threat to air quality due to its propensity to gum up catalytic converters in automobiles. MMT results in more air pollution. Its health and environmental threats led the Government to ban it in the late 1990s. However, various trade challenges, including Chapter 11 of NAFTA, resulted in the repeal of the legislation. Nevertheless, pressure from the car makers, environmentalists and health protection groups has not disappeared.

According to the Sierra Club of Canada, so far Shell Canada, Irving, Imperial, PetroCanada, Suncor, and Ultramar have stopped using MMT. Only Co-Op and Husky are still adding the controversial neuro-toxic anti-knock agent to gas.

"We congratulate the major refineries of Canada for taking action in the public interest by voluntarily ending the use of this neuro-toxic additive," said Elizabeth May, Executive Director of SCC, "And we call on Husky and Co-op to stop buying and using this dangerous substance."

One of the world's leading experts on the neurological effects of manganese, Dr. Donna Mergler of UQAM commented, " A voluntary phase-out of MMT in Canada is very good news. As a consequence, we should see reductions in environmental exposure to manganese. Although manganese is an essential element that we get through food, in higher quantities, it can be toxic. When it is inhaled, it is taken up quickly into the blood and the brain. Our studies have shown that higher blood manganese can lead to slowing of motor functions, particularly among the elderly. In our aging society, this can have important consequences for care and autonomy. I hope that we will continue monitoring for manganese in our environment and carry out studies that will inform us about its effects, particularly in susceptible populations, such as children and the elderly. In this way, we will be able to act preventively if the issue arises again."

The situation in the US mirrors that now unfolding in Canada. Although MMT was forced to be registered by court action taken by the manufacturer, Ethyl Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, no refinery in the US will use it due to consumer and environmental group rejection of the additive.

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Elizabeth May, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada, 613-241-4611
Dr. Donna Mergler, University of Québec at Montreal, 514-270-1915