Why we need Clean Air

This is the story of the Great Smog of 1952

A fog so thick and polluted it left thousands dead and wreaked havoc on London in 1952. The smoke-like pollution was so toxic it was even reported to have chocked cows to death in the fields. It was so thick it brought road, air and transport to a virtual standstill. This was an event I remember so well even though I was just a young lad of 9 years of age, this was not the first smog to hit London.

Smog had become a frequent part of London life, but nothing compared to the smoke-laden fog that shrouded the capital from Friday 5 December to Tuesday 9 December 1952. While it heavily affected the population of London, causing a huge death toll and inconveniencing millions of people, the people it affected were also partly to blame for the smog.

During the day on December 5, the fog was not especially dense but as the evening came so did the fog thicken, it was so thick by nightfall that I remember that you could not see your feet, walking home from school was also a problem, during the next few days it got worse, the sun was too low in the sky to burn the fog away.

Britain has long been affected by mists and fogs, but these became much more severe after the onset of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s. Factories belched out gases and huge number of particles into the atmosphere, which in themselves could be poisonous. The pollutants in the air, however, could act as catalysts for fog, as water clings to the tiny particles to create polluted fog or smog.

In December 1813, there were reports of a thick smog which blanketed London smelling of coal tar, which lasted for several days, people claimed that you could see the other side of the street, a similar fog in1873 saw the death rate rise 40% above normal, there were similar notable fogs in 1880, 1882, 1891, 1892, and 1948.

When the fog finally cleared on December 9, it had already taken a heavy toll.

*About 4000 people were known to have died as a result of the fog, but it could be many more

* Many people suffered from breathing problems.

Press reports claimed that cattle at the Smithfield market had been asphyxiated by the smog.

Travel was disrupted for several days.

The response to the Smog

A series of laws were brought in to avoid a repeat of the situation. This included the CLEAN AIR ACT of 1956 and 1968. These acts banned emissions of black smoke and decreed residents of urban areas and operators of factories had to convert to smokeless fuels, although the act was passed in 1956, 750 Londoners died as a result of a fog that hit London in 1962, and the act was strengthen in 1968, the great smog has now become a thing of the past.

We know China has been experiencing a similar situation in Beijing, and are taking steps to control the situation, so let us all remind ourselves that we need to live in a world that is not polluted by man.

Let the sceptics know that pollution is man made, and we need to live in a clean air environment.