Air Pollution: Secondary Research


27-5th March

Air Pollution has been a problem as early as the 11th century. The growth of the population encouraged the change from wood-burning to coal-burning fires that created clouds of smoke over cities, essentially polluting the air. Air Pollution regulations first appeared in 1273, however even though these were set in place, nothing was really done for centuries later. Air Pollution rapidly became a problem as the industrial revolution sept across countries and smoke along with pollution from the industry stole more and more life’s. “Pollution causes nearly 9500 deaths in London every year, and according to a 2014 WHO report, air pollution in 2012 resulted in the death of around 7 million people around the world.” The main causes of Air Pollution include: Burning of fossil fuels, Agricultural activities, Exhaust from industries and Vehicle fumes

Case Studies of Air Pollution:

United States, Donora, Pennsylvania

October 26, 1948: ‘Dorna Death Fog” Again due to a thermal inversion (a condition where the air close to the ground is colder than the layer above it, and is therefore unable to rise above it) This is the opposite of normal atmospheric conditions. When this happens man made industrial pollutants are trapped resulting in a smog. The thick fog engulfed the town, lasting six days. 20 died, up to 7,000 hospitalized and another 50 were dying along with hundreds had to living out their days with respiratory problems. The cause was a weather anomaly that trapped toxic waste emissions from the town’s zinc smelting plant close to the ground. The Donora disaster brought air pollution into focus in the United States, and paved the way for the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1963 and strengthened in 1970.

United Kingdom, London

December 5-9th 1952: Again due to a thermal inversion in London roughly 4,000 people died as a result of the smog. The smoke like pollution was so toxic it was even reported that cows choked to death in fields. The smog was so thick all road, rail and air transport had to come to a standstill. Though London in these times was quite foggy due to pollution, in this case it had worsened as the population were burning masses of coal in their homes to keep warm in the cold December, and as an anticyclone was hanging over the region this pushed the air downwards and warming it at the same time, creating the inversion trapping the smoke from the chimneys. “On each day during the foggy period, the following pollutants were emitted: 1,000 tonnes of smoke particles, 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 14 tonnes of fluorine compounds. In addition, and perhaps most dangerously, 370 tonnes of sulphur dioxide were converted into 800 tonnes of sulphuric acid.”

Response: This incident brought about England’s Clean Air Act in 1956.

Plans to overcome Air Pollution:

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, revealed an action plan to target London’s toxic air in July 2016.

A £10 Emissions Surcharge for the most polluting vehicles entering central London from 2017, on top of the existing Congestion Charge, was outlined.

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was proposed to be extended beyond central London from 2020, to include motorcycles, cars, and vans, and lorries, buses and coaches across London.

It was suggested that double-decker buses should be ULEZ-compliant as a requirement from 2019

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