Lessons We Can Learn From the Great Smog

Lessons We Can Learn From the Great Smog

Seventy years after the disaster, The Guardian has looked back at the deadly London smog that occurred 70 years ago in 1952. If you live outside the U.K, you may be unaware of the smog which blanketed the city for four days, leading to around 3000 deaths per day. Needless to say, it was and remains one of the worst air pollution disasters of all time.

On the 70th anniversary of the event, Gary Fuller from The Guardian discusses how the lessons learnt from the smog are as relevant as ever. While the event may seem like distant history - and for many, it is - there is a lot we can take away from it.

Unfortunately, air pollution continues to lead to many deaths in London and worldwide. Delays and inaction continue to cost lives, and even now, we only have a range of piecemeal policies which fail to tackle air pollution effectively.

Even after the great smog, which directly led to around 12,000 deaths (but likely more), it took the government four years, until 1956, to implement the Clean Air Act. Due to this hesitation in policy, thousands more Londoners died due to the impacts of air pollution.

Issues like this are still present today, as we see a rise in pollution levels heading into winter. While the number of homes relying on fossil fuels for heating has decreased from 18% to 8%, these 8% of homes emit more particle pollution than all the vehicles currently on the road exhaust.

Rising energy prices are leading more to rely on fires. However, another study found that around half of the people using wood burners are from affluent neighbourhoods relying on their fires not for the heat they produce but for the atmosphere they provide. 

While the bulk of attention that air pollution receives is on traffic exhaust, we need to turn to other sources of pollution and begin to focus on them. Agriculture, personal care products, wood and coal burning, and more continue to be overlooked despite being large contributors to the 28,000 deaths the UK sees annually from air pollution.

Read more on The Guardian.

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