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European oil companies selling dirty fuel to Africa, report says

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European oil companies, especially Swiss commodity traders, are exploiting weak African fuel standards by selling toxic diesel and gasoline across the continent, a campaign group said Thursday. A three-year investigation published by Switzerland-based environmental and economic group Public Eye did not accuse oil companies of breaking any laws. But it charged several firms with using an “illegitimate strategy” to boost profits, hawking so-called “African quality” fuels that have had devastating health and environmental impacts across many sub-Saharan states.

In a 160-page report based on research in eight African countries, Public Eye found fuels sold at the pump which contained high levels of toxins, notably sulphur. Such toxic blends would be illegal to sell in Europe, which caps sulphur rates in fuel at 10 parts per million, Public Eye said. In Africa, sulphur limits are on average 200 times higher. “By selling such fuels at the pump in Africa, the traders increase outdoor air pollution, causing respiratory disease and premature death,” said the report from Public Eye, a group previously known as the Bern Declaration and founded in 1968.

Among the key culprits, Public Eye named Swiss traders Vitol and Trafigura as well as the multi-national energy group Oryx, which specialises in the African market. In a statement sent to AFP, Vitol called the report “inaccurate and misinformed,” stressing that African governments were responsible for setting their own fuel standards. Oryx made the same case, noting in a statement that it sells fuel products “that strictly comply with the national legislation of each client country.”

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