09 Jul 2018 Press release Biosafety

UN Environment calls to stop flow of “dirty fuel" to West Africa

The Hague, 9 July 2018 –A new report outlining the origin and composition of “dirty diesel” transported from European ports to Western Africa was presented to the Dutch government today, showing insufficient compliance with processing rules leading to fuel blends that represent a risk to people and the environment.

UN Environment applauds the action taken by the government of the Netherlands to better understand and proactively approach the problem, and urges other nations to follow suit.

“The shipping of dirty fuels to West Africa has been nothing short of an environmental and public health scandal. The notion that some parts of the world don’t deserve the same kind of health protection as others is simply shocking,” Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said. “The industry players also have a critical role in raising the bar. Substandard products should not be sold even if they meet national standards.”  

 According to the report, presented by the Minister of Transport and State Secretary of Environment, gasoline and diesel for the West African market are frequently blended with low-quality, untreated streams from refineries and the petrochemical industry, before continuing transport to their final destinations, with oil companies making maximum use of the extremely lean fuel standards in receiving countries. Research has found fuel samples containing 300 times more Sulphur than permitted in accordance with European standards.

UN Environment has been supporting the region to implement tighter standards for fuel, working on the ground with governments and regional economic bodies to initiate, harmonize and formalize higher standard across the board in Western Africa.

High-Sulphur fuel is one of the main causes of lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 million people per year die of air pollution, most of them due to particulates in traffic exhaust.

Beyond presenting the report to the Dutch parliament as a guide into the problem, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate that undertook the research will take immediate action to address the issue, consulting with the Association of Independent Tank Storage Companies to improve compliance with obligations of registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals by their members.


UN Environment Spokespersons

  • Angele Luh – Head, UN Environment Sub-Regional Office for West Africa
    Email: [email protected]

About UN Environment:

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

For more information, contact:

Keith Weller, UN Environment Head of News and Media, [email protected]



Related Content