Petrol companies which add lead to their fuel could face a series of legal class actions, similar to those which have hit big tobacco companies, according to US lawyer and journalist Jamie Kitman.
Kitman, editor of the US magazine Automobile, has investigated the history of lead in petrol and claims that the companies involved introduced leaded petrol in the 1920s knowing it could be harmful.
He said that the first lead-related law suit has already been brought forward in the state of Maryland. The personal injury suit concerns a company which manufactured lead paint, but petrol manufacturers could be subject to similar claims.
Kitman said he expected a wave of such litigation against companies involved in developing lead-based additives, such as General Motors, du Pont and Exxon Mobil.
Lead-based additives for petrol are still being manufactured by firms such as Associated Octel in Manchester. A spokeswoman for the company said Kitman was using information that had been the public domain for some time, but she would not comment on the likelihood of legal action being taken against petrol companies.
Previous class actions have left US cigarette manufacturers liable to pay out billions of dollars in compensation to sufferers of tobacco-related diseases.
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