Effects Of 1952 London Air Pollution Episodes Research Paper Examples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Air Pollution, Air, Pollution, London, England, Smog, Death, Fog

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/21

1952 London air pollution episode
The best recognized and most disastrous air pollution episode happened on December 5, 1952 in the city of London, United Kingdom. A five-day reign of death faced the inhabitants of London. It was an extremely cold winter coupled with fog that drove the people to have an increased household burning up of coal. The domestic coal sold in the market had a high content of sulfur (Hedley, 5). There was an inversion of temperature were the smoke of the coal burned from the city’s industrial smokestacks, fireplaces, and furnaces formed a so called “killer fog” that drifted close to the ground (Schneider, 1).
In 1952, the weather settings of London were characteristic of those having poor air quality. However, an exceptional characteristic was its persistence for a long period. A region with elevated pressure was focused over southern England coupled with the nonattendance of wind. The temperatures were somewhat lower than freezing in central London. The lack of wind formed a temperature inversion in the Thames Valley. In a temperature inversion, the cold air is near the ground and the warm air overlaid the cold one. These factors led to extensive smog because they hinder the smog from scattering. The smoke and air pollution were confined and was concentrated mainly in central London (Livingstone, 3).
The pollution episode led to loss of visibility to the extent of some meters making it impossible to drive or walk on the streets. People started dying due to cardiopulmonary and respiratory malfunction. The deaths occurred was approximately 4,000. The death rate is said to be five times higher than the normal death rate. Deaths happened in five days attributable to high levels of SO2 and particulates with an estimated concentrations equivalent to thousands of micrograms per cubic meter. The majority of the victims were elderly and adulthood along with babies and children that were also distressed (Hedley, 5).
The concentration of sulfur and smoke reach an incomparable level during the smog. During the previous years, the average concentration of smoke in twelve different locations around London ranged from 0.12 to 0.44 (mg/m3). The day before the great smog, the speed of the wind lowered, that was when the fog started to come into view in the afternoon. On the noon of December 5, the concentrations of smoke reached to a level of 0.49 mg/m3 to 2.46 mg/m3 and persisted to climb to 4.46 mg/m3 on the next three days. The concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2) demonstrated the same increase from 0.41 mg/m3 to 2.15 mg/m3 on December 5. It also persisted to elevate up to 3.83 mg/m3 to December 8. When the wind finally rose on December 9, both the concentrations SO2 and smoke fell stridently to 1.35 mg/m3 and 1.22 mg/m3 correspondingly clearing the smog (Livingstone, 3).
Only when the pollution in London were at last completely released and the air filled with soot were cleared that the death rates went back to normal (Schneider, 1). The occurrence of death lasted for more than a few months past the pollution episode and carried on to be comparatively high as suggested by some evidences. The possible additional death is around 8,000. The primary bases of death were respiratory diseases and heart ailments. The people’s deaths were rapid that the effect was well felt by coffin makers, florists and funeral managers instead of doctors and hospitals. (Hedley, 5).
The 1952 London’s “killer fog” evidently reveals a connection linking death and air pollution. In the precedent decades, epidemiology and medical science had remarkable progression that assisted scientists to measure the intensity of air pollution and its effect on people’s health and everyday lives. Global researches claimed the number of people being hospitalized due to heart and respiratory malfunction is proportional to the increased levels of fine particles in the air called ‘soot’ as well as other pollutants (Schneider, 1).

London was long acknowledged for its smoggy conditions and coal-burning industries, power plants and households. The lethal outcome of the pollution episode that lasted from December 5 to 9 was caused by the dense smog which happened to also be a poisonous fog. The tremendous death caused by this occurrence has awakened the awareness of many (Bell and Davis, 389).
A document in 1954 by Wilkins (5) stated that the extended rise of death rate is attributable to air pollution and the killer fog have weaken the resistance of the human body to diseases which made the mortality in the following months to continue. The proceedings of London pollution episode initiated public health investigation regarding different effects of air pollution. Scientists have looked for systems and methods by which pollution may be connected with abnormal and increased mortality rates (Bell and Davis, 389).
The London ‘killer fog’ of 1952 is extensively considered as a channel for learning and understanding the epidemiology of air pollution. The Ministry of Health’s certified statement on the London episode stated that the mortality and morbidity continued to increase in the period of December 1952 and March 1953 in the expanse of larger London. The increased deaths from the report are caused by an epidemic of influenza epidemic. On the other hand, some deaths were recognized as caused by the lasting effects of the killer fog. During those periods, the death rate increase was believed to be also caused by influenza. The deaths in 1952 London were very famous in the news, announcing that rigorous air pollution can be deadly in a rather short period (Bell and Davis, 389).

Air pollution Control

The initial reaction of the administration regarding the great smog of 1952 was to refuse to claim accountability for the matter. The administration initially denied the need to improve or create additional legislation in spite the fact that the London County Council (LCC) published, in January 1953, a documentation that details terrible impact of the pollution episode. In due course, the administration gave in after being pressured. A board of inquiry was made headed by
The report suggested several actions including: the authorities must monitor and guarantee the availability of smokeless fuels supply; that the Meteorological Office must issue announce cautions when importunate smog was expected to take place and; the people must be required to utilize smokeless fuels only throughout the episodes of unrelenting smog (Livingstone, 15).
Moreover, the report also recommended that smokeless zones in which discharges of smoke would be completely forbidden must be created in addition to smoke control vicinities in which household employment of bituminous coal would not be allowed. The stipulation of funding for the translation of household fires to consume smokeless fuels was also suggested.
The reports made the government to bring forward a bill that later became the Clean Air Act 1956. The Clean Air Act 1956 made up the principal legislation restraining pollution by dust, grit and smoke from industrial, commercial and domestic fires that are not enclosed in any other pollution management policy. It was later modified and completed by the Clean Air Act 1968 (Livingstone, 15).
The Acts controlled the burning of fuels and the heights of latest manufacturing chimneys. Funds were given to assist the substitution of household grates to burn up smokeless fuels. The most prominent feature of the Clean Air Act of 1956 is the introduction of Smoke Control Areas (Livingstone, 15).
London acted positively in response to Clean Air Act. A review regarding the effectiveness of the Law was made in 1969. The review affirmed a yield of apparent profit for the society in general attributable to the unyielding management and small overheads in support of the community (Livingstone, 15).


The 1952 London air pollution episode was considered to be the most recognized and most disastrous air pollution episode. The cold winter condition drove people to increase burning of coal creating great smog. Other factors were the presence of elevated pressure and absence of wind which lead to temperature inversion. This temperature inversion trapped the smog and prevented it from spreading. All these events led to the creation of the ‘killer smog’. The deaths occurred was approximately 4,000, which is said to be five times higher than the normal death rate. The London ‘killer fog’ of 1952 is extensively considered as a channel for learning and understanding the epidemiology of air pollution. The 1952 London air pollution episode also lead to the creation of Clean Air Act 1956.

Works Cited

Bell, Michelle L. and Devra Lee Davis. "Reassessment of the Lethal London Fog of 1952: Novel Indicators of Acute and Chronic Consequences of Acute Exposure to Air Pollution." Environmental Health Perspectives 109.3 (2001): 389-394.
Hedley, Anthony J. The current avoidable burden of health problems, community costs and harm to future generations . Pokfulam, Hong Kong: The University of Hong Kong , 2009.
Livingstone, Ken. 50 years on the struggle for air quality in London since the great smog of December 1952. London: Greater London Authority, 2002.
Schneider, Conrad G. Death, Disease & Dirty Power Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants. Boston: Clean Air Task Force, 2000.
T, Wilkins E. "Air pollution and the London fog of December, 1952." J R Sanitary Inst 74.1 (1954): 1-21.

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