Read the two texts carefully and answer the questions that follow each text. Use your own words throughout as far as possible.

In 1978, the tanker Amoco Cadiz called at a port in the Persian Gulf, took on 220,000 tonnes of oil and left for Europe. Its destination was Lyme Bay, on the south coast of England. To get there, the tanker had to sail round Africa and up the west coast of France.

On 16th March, the ship was not far from the English Channel. Her Italian captain decided to keep the tanker near the coast to shorten the journey and save time. Under normal conditions, this would not have created any problems. However, this time the weather was terrible; storms and huge waves were beating against the ship. The winds were from the north-west, howling across the Atlantic Ocean towards dangerous rocks off the French coast.

At about 10 a.m., a sailor informed the captain that the ship’s steering gear was not working efficiently, so he could not control the ship. A quick investigation revealed that a pipe in the hydraulic system which powered the steering was ruptured, and oil from the system was pouring out. Repairs soon proved to be impossible, and the hydraulic equipment3 lacked the necessary pressure.

The captain decided not to inform the French authorities of his problem. The ship drifted towards the French coast, so the captain radioed for a tug to help the Amoco Cadiz. Within an hour, the German-owned tug Pacific had arrived. It was the only powerful tug in the area at that time. A dispute between the two captains prevented immediate action. The captain of the tanker would not at first accept the customary salvage contract offered by the captain of the tug. However, the Pacific eventually shot a towing line to the supertanker and tried to pull it but without much success. The line finally broke, and it took several hours to get a second one in place. Meanwhile, the Amoco Cadiz was being blown closer and closer to rocks near the French coast.

At this point, the captain of the supertanker still had not warned the French authorities that a major disaster appeared very likely. Instead, he tried desperately to stop the ship from moving nearer to the shore. He tried unsuccessfully to back away from the land by putting his engines in reverse, but that failed because he could not adequately control the direction of the ship. When he tried to drop the ship’s anchor, he found that it had not been prepared properly. There was a fault in the steam system which powered the anchor. There was a small explosion and the anchor was lost. The Pacific was delayed when it tried to pull the tanker a second time, because the Amoco Cadiz had swung sideways in the heavy seas. By the time the tug was able to pull again, it was too late to prevent a major disaster.

Soon after 9 p.m., the tanker was forced onto the rocks of Brittany on the French coast. Oil poured from the ship, and the captain radioed the French authorities, who sent helicopters to carry the crew to safety. Then, one by one, the ship’s tanks burst open, covering over 100 miles of the shore with thick, sticky oil. Thousands of fish, sea-birds, and other marine creatures died. The people of Brittany suffered badly because they depended heavily on fishing and tourism. When tourists heard of oil-covered beaches, they cancelled their bookings. Although great efforts were made to clean up the oil, both industries were virtually wiped out7 for a year at least by what was then the world’s oil pollution disaster.

According to a leading Professor of Organic Chemistry, ‘Lead is a brain poison. There is no greater threat to mankind—short of1 an all-out nuclear war.’

When crude oil is refined to produce petrol, lead is added because it produces more kilometres per litre and increases acceleration. Oil companies say that if they have to use a different method, the price of petrol will have to be increased. Despite this, many have passed laws forcing oil companies to sell only lead-free petrol.

In urban areas, cars produce thousands of tonnes of lead in their exhaust fumes. In some large cities, the amount of lead in the air and soil is more than a thousand times the natural level. People who live near busy roads, and especially those on the lower floors, are most at risk3. It is highly likely, indeed, that many parts of the world are already contaminated by lead to some extent.

Vegetables grown not far from a busy urban area may well be contaminated by lead in the air. University students in London recently planted radishes within a 10-kilometre radius of the centre of the city. When the radishes were ready to eat, the students tested them and discovered that they were unfit to eat according to the food regulations of the government.

Vehicles are not the only source of lead. Another source is water pipes made of lead. As water flows through the pipes, it dissolves lead and carries it to household taps. Lead is also present in industrial waste which flows into the sea and is absorbed by fish, crabs, and prawns, which human beings eventually eat.

Even dust in the home contains harmful amounts of lead which get into bowls, on plates, and on cooking utensils. Many kinds of paint contain lead, too, and this can find its way into the human body. At various times in the past, toys manufactured in some countries have been banned in other countries because the paint on them has been found to contain potentially harmful amounts of lead. When a baby or young child sucks the paint, he or she may damage his brain or body.

Only in recent times have doctors begun to discover just how malignant6 lead can be. In the USA, there were 2,700 cases of severe lead poisoning in 1970 but this fell to 300 in 1987 when more areas used lead-free petrol. But it is not the severe and obvious cases of lead poisoning which are our present concern. It is the slow and irreversible damaged caused by lengthy exposure to lead in the atmosphere and in one’s food. The human body needs calcium to develop bones and nerves. According to a spokesman for CALP (Campaign Against Lead in Petrol), lead imitates the action of calcium in the body. Thus the body is deceived and treats lead as a calcium substitute although it is a deadly poison.

Slow poisoning by lead affects the brain. It makes the victim lethargic. He or she then becomes irritable and may even resort to violence. There is a well-founded belief that brain damage then leads to urban disturbances and acts  of foolish irresponsibility. Lead attacks the bones of young people and upsets their nervous systems. Victims tend to daydream much more than other children and have great difficulty concentrating on anything for very long. They are amongst the poorer performers at school and may have trouble getting and holding a job. One expert said that she had taught children in the centre of a city, in the suburbs, and in the countryside. She found that rural children had a better attitude to their studies and were easier to teach and control.

If children get plenty of calcium in their diet (from milk, suitable fruit and vegetables, and a generally balanced diet), the risk is less. Recent research has shown that lead poisoning lowers a person’s IQ (intelligence quotient or standard). Children with the highest levels of lead poisoning have a lower IQ than less contaminated children. In many countries, governments are now being urged to ban the use of lead in any area where a substitute can be found.


1 How can we tell that it is unlikely that the Amoco Cadiz went through the Suez Canal?

2 How did the direction of the wind affect the tankers?

3 What was the ‘hydraulic equipment’ needed in this case, and why did it fail to function properly?

4 Why did the captain not inform the French authorities before the tug arrived but then contacted them after it had done?

5 Why did the two captains argue?

6 How did the fault in the steam system of the anchor affect the fate of the Amoco Cadiz?

7 Explain what ‘wiped out’ means in this context.

8 In a paragraph of about 160 words, summarise the factors which led to the Amoco Cadiz being wrecked on the French coast.

1 Explain the meaning of ‘short of’ in this context.

2 Which word in the second paragraph shows that oil companies preferred to produce petrol containing lead?

3 What is the ‘risk’ mentioned in this case, and why should people living on upper floors be safer than those living below them?

4 Why did the writer mention the experiment by students in London?

5 What are two techniques that the writer uses to link the fourth and the fifth paragraphs?

6 What evidence does the writer use to show that lead can be ‘malignant’?

7 What is the connection between lead and the performance of rural children at school?

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