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Latest News  >  The Great Smog - 60 years Ago

Sixty years ago on the 5 December 1952, smog descended on the main cities in the UK. London was most affected with up to 4000 deaths from chest and lung related illnesses. The smog caused disruption to buses, trains and cars. School, offices and workplaces also had to close. Pollution at the time not only affected our health but damaged buildings as black tarry deposits settled on walls and plants. Passersby brushing against them were smeared with a greasy black tar. Acids in the air from burning sulphurous coal cause corrosion of buildings and metal structures damaging our heritage.

In response to the 1952 smog, the Government set about cleaning our air by bring in new laws to reduce the pollution from chimneys and factories into our air. Today, coal and oil are no longer used and our air looks a lot cleaner; however today’s pollution is less visible and we cannot afford to be complacent.

People are still dying from air pollution with up to 50,000 deaths a year being associated with poor air quality in the UK accordingly the Government’s Environmental Audit Committee. The growth in car ownership means that today’s pollution in major cities is caused mainly by vehicles. Over 60% of oxides of nitrogen in Greater Manchester are linked to cars with national and EU air quality standards exceeded at roadside locations.

The Greater Manchester districts are working with central Government to keep improving air quality and reduce the impact it can have on human health and the environment. Greater Manchester operates a network of air quality stations monitoring our local air for a number of pollutants from traffic and other sources. More information about air quality and current pollution levels can be found on the GreatairManchester .

Environmental Audit Committee
Greater Manchester Emissions Inventory

Greatairmanchester website


Updated: 05/12/2012










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