The Quality of Air Quality

Once upon a time London was renowned for it’s “pea-soupers”.

Pea soup, or a pea souper, also known as a black fog, killer fog or smog is a very thick and often yellowish, greenish, or blackish fog caused by air pollution that contains soot particulates and the poisonous gas sulphur dioxide.

This very thick smog occurs in cities and is derived from the smoke given off by the burning of soft coal for home heating and in industrial processes.

Smog of this intensity is often lethal to vulnerable people such as the elderly, the very young and those with respiratory problems.

The result of these phenomena was commonly known as a London particular or London fog, which then, in a reversal of the idiom, became the name for a thick pea and ham soup.

The Great Smog of London, or Great Smog of 1952 sometimes called the Big Smoke, was a severe air-pollution event that affected the British capital of London in December 1952.

It caused major disruption by reducing visibility and even penetrating indoor areas, far more severe than previous smog events experienced in the past, called “pea-soupers”.

Government medical reports in the following weeks, however, estimated that up until 8 December, 4,000 people had died as a direct result of the smog and 100,000 more were made ill by the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract.

London had suffered since the 1200s from poor air quality, which worsened in the 1600s, but the Great Smog is known to be the worst air-pollution event in the history of the United Kingdom, and the most significant in terms of its effect on environmental research, government regulation, and public awareness of the relationship between air quality and health.

The Clean Air Act 1956 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in response to London’s Great Smog of 1952.

The Act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing “smoke control areas” in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burned.

By shifting homes’ sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires.

Reinforcing these changes, the Act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased.

Now the fog has cleared.

London no longer has a problem caused by fine particulates and sulphur dioxide.

London Datastore – PM2.5 map and exposure data

Environmental Monitoring Following the Grenfell Tower Fire
Public Health England

Overall, the “air quality” in London appears to oscillate between the “Fair” and “Moderate”.

European Air Quality Index

To celebrate this major achievements of the 1956 Clean Air Act the Mayor of London wants to charge 150,000 diesel car drivers £24 a day for the privilege of driving in London.

More than 150,000 diesel car drivers face paying up to £24 a day for even the shortest journeys under plans by the mayor of London to tackle air pollution.

The Times – Ben Webster – 24 Oct 2017

Apparently, this celebratory extraction of cash will help fight a battle that was won 60 years ago.

I guess the celebrations will continue until morale improves…

Gallery | This entry was posted in Atmospheric Science, Economics, History. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Quality of Air Quality

  1. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    So summing up Khan’s policy;

  2. A C Osborn says:

    I remember the 52 Smog, my brother was working in Woolwich Arsena,l which was 4 miles away, at the time and he rode a bike to and fro to work.
    On one of the really bad days (1 yard max visibility) the 99 Bus following a Car drove in to the Car owners drive.
    I followed my brother in to the Arsenal as an apprentice in 1964 and we were still getting smogs even then, but visibility had improved to about 3-4 yards. A motorcyclist was killed in one of them when he hit a lampost.
    I can also remember my Mum’s indignation at having to buy “Coke” instead of Coal, until she realised just how much energy it still contained.
    We also had some pretty impressive winters in the 60s as well, I can remember sliding my Bike down Bostal Hill and Garland Road stuck in the Icy Tracks produced by the cars and buses.
    Good days, Hot Summers, with Thunder Storms in the Afternoon, Cold Frosty Winters, with ice on the inside of the bedroom windows until the fire got going.

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