The Worst Smogs In History

Smog in London as observed from Primrose Hill.
Smog in London as observed from Primrose Hill.

Smog, a kind of air pollutant, is composed of a mixture of compounds like nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur oxides, smoke or particulate matter, CFC’s, carbon monoxide, etc. The primary sources of the air pollutants comprising smog are derived from power-producing plants, domestic emissions, forest fires, automobile emissions, etc. The effects of smog include breathing problems, coughing, wheezing, respiratory diseases, etc.

The Deadliest Smogs

Smog was common in London as the people were burning more coal than it was required due to cold weather conditions. The poor quality of coal increased the presence of sulfur dioxide in the air. Most of the coal power stations situated in Bankside, Fulham, and Kingston-upon-Thames also added to the pollution in the air. The Great Smog or the Big Smoke affected London in the month of December in the year 1952 because of severe air pollution factors. A thick layer of Smog formed over the city due to anticyclone and the windless conditions that collected airborne pollutants derived from the usage of coal. The smog left more than 100,000 people ill, the death toll reported around 12,000 people. The Coal Smog appeared in the year 1880, and nearly 2,200 people died. The people experienced Coal Smog during Industrial Revolution and the main factor was the over usage of coal as 90% of the houses were burning coal and letting out this toxin from their chimneys. The Smog experienced in the year 1991 in London was caused due to traffic exhausts, nitrogen oxides, and other particles. They are not visible to the naked eye, but penetrated deep into the lungs of people and caused some 160 deaths.

The pollutants from the factories caused the Meuse Valley Smog in the year 1930 in Belgium, which caused shortness of breath amongst the people. The other factors reported were coughing fits, rapid breathing, nausea, vomiting, etc. and the death toll was around 60 people. Donora Smog occurred in Donora, Pennsylvania reported in the year 1948. It reduced the visibility, caused respiratory damage, fluorine poisoning and asthmatic breathing that resulted in the death of 50 people.

Future Threats Caused by Smog

With decreasing air quality throughout the world, the smog problem in many countries of the world is predicted to worsen in the future. This situation will lead to poor health of people and an increased burden of respiratory diseases. Thus, there is a need for governments and people to adopt sufficient measures to improve the air quality and decrease the levels of particulate pollutants released into the air

The Worst Smogs In History

RankIncident and YearLocationDeath Toll
1The Great Smog, 1952London, UK12,000
2Coal Smog, 1880London, UK2,200
3Smog, 1991London, UK160
4Meuse Valley Smog, 1930Belgium60
5Donora Smog, 1948Donora, Pennsylvania, US50

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