Great Smog aftermath

The Great Smog event made the English public aware that polluted air can be deadly, but the government at the time was hesitant to perform the much needed reforms to prevent future problems. Entire British society was becoming more and more informed about the connection between coal combustion and atmospheric pollution, as well as possible damages to public health.

The public demand for action finally became too great in 1956, when the British government took action by giving local governments the authority to provide funds to households to convert their coal-fired heaters for use of cleaner sources of energy such as gas, oil, smokeless coal, or electricity.

New regulations were immediately implemented, restricting the use of dirty fuels in industry and banning black smoke in the 1956 Clean Air Act. Over ten years later, another important measure was passed in the form of the 1968 Clean Air Act which introduced the use of taller chimneys for the industry which allowed the pollution from coal combustion to be released higher into the atmosphere.

The act eased the immediate pollution impacts of coal combustion, but resulted in another problem of acid rains. The death toll of the Great Smog crisis gave an important lesson to modern environmentalism, forcing it to pay much more attention to the effects of air pollution.

Monitoring of the air quality
Air pollution is predominately local but also a transnational issue. Since air pollutants released in one country can easily be transported in the atmosphere and cause harm human health or the environment in another country. Two key pollutants are fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone. They are generally recognised as the most significant in terms of negative health impacts. Long-term exposure to these pollutants can cause different effects, ranging from minor health problems of the respiratory system to premature mortality.

Clean air is considered to be a basic requirement for human health and general well-being. However, modern day air pollution poses a significant threat to health worldwide. According to a World Health Organisation assessment more than 2 million premature deaths each year can be attributed to the effects of urban outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution from the burning of solid fuels. More than half of the estimated numbers are affecting the populations in developing countries.

Next: Great Smog documentary