Great Smog of 1952


Great Smog of 1952

The Great Smog, also referred to as the Big Smoke, befell London from December 5th to December 9th, 1952. The catastrophe caused or advanced the death of thousands of Londoners, and formed an important impetus to the modern environmental movement. Deaths in most cases during the Great Smog were due to respiratory tract infections from hypoxia (a low level of oxygenation of blood), and due to mechanical obstruction of the air passages by pus arising from lung infections caused by the smog. The lung infections were mainly bronchopneumonia or acute purulent bronchitis superimposed upon chronic bronchitis.Camps, Francis E (Ed.) (1976). "Gradwohl's Legal Medicine, 3rd edition" "Bristol: John Wright & Sons Ltd", ISBN 0 7236 0310 3. page 236]

Early in December 1952, a cold fog descended upon London. Because of the cold, Londoners began to burn more coal than usual. The resulting air pollution was trapped by the inversion layer formed by the dense mass of cold air. Concentrations of pollutants, coal smoke in particular, built up dramatically. The problem was made worse by use of low-quality, high-sulphur coal for home heating in London in order to permit export of higher-quality coal, because of the country's tenuous postwar economic situation [ [http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2002/110-12/editorial.html#half Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 110, Number 12, December 2002: Guest Editorials:A Half Century Later: Recollections of the London Fog (David V. Bates)] ] . The "fog", or smog, was so thick that driving became difficult or impossible. It entered indoors easily, and concerts and screenings of films were cancelled as the audience could not see the stage or screen.

Since London was known for its fog, there was no great panic at the time. In the weeks that followed, the medical services compiled statistics and found that the fog had killed 4,000 people, [cite web
url=http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/education/secondary/students/smog.html
title=Met Office: The Great Smog of 1952
publisher=www.metoffice.gov.uk
accessdate=2008-08-17
last=
first=
] most of whom were very young or elderly, or had pre-existing respiratory problems. There was relief Fact|date=October 2008 that Queen Mary, The Queen Dowager, then aged 85 and suffering with respiratory problems, was not at Buckingham Palace at the time of the incident. Another 8,000 died in the weeks and months that followed.

These shocking revelations led to a rethinking of air pollution; the disaster had demonstrated its lethal potential to people around the world. New regulations were put in place restricting the use of dirty fuels in industry and banning black smoke. These included the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and of 1968, and the City of London (Various Powers) Act of 1954.

References

External links

* [http://www.reviewslondon.com/london-fog.html London Fog]
* [http://www.metoffice.com/education/secondary/students/smog.html The Great Smog of 1952]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2542315.stm Days of toxic darkness] BBC News
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2545747.stm Historic smog death toll rises] BBC, 2002-12-02.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/9/newsid_4506000/4506390.stm 1952: London fog clears after days of chaos] BBC News, 1952-12-09.
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=873954 NPR: The Killer Fog of '52]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2543875.stm Pollution call on smog anniversary]
* [http://www.portfolio.mvm.ed.ac.uk/studentwebs/session4/27/greatsmog52.htm Description of smog]
* [http://www.npi.gov.au/database/substance-info/profiles/69.html National Pollutant Inventory - Particulate matter fact sheet]


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