MAN MADE DISASTERS: THE GREAT LONDON SMOG OF 1952 DHEEMAN GHOSH Roll number - 48 Stream – MPSM Environment (2011-13)
“A serious disruption of thefunctioning of a community or asociety involving widespreadhuman, material, economic orenvironmental losses and impacts,which exceeds the ability of theaffected community or society tocope using its own resources.”- United Nations InternationalStrategy for Disaster Reduction(UNISDR) MAN MADE DISASTER “Technological or man-made hazards leading to disaster (complex emergencies/conflicts, famine, displaced populations, industrial accidents and transport accidents) are events that are caused by humans and occur in or close to human settlements.” IFRC Definition
THE LONDON SMOG: CRESCENDO TO A PERSISTANT PROBLEM? Fog or haze intensified by smoke or otheratmospheric pollutants.Smoke and fog long a problem of London life. Enhanced death rates evident by 1650 Widely understood by 1890s 19th C legislative control of smoke not very effective. A dense fog covered Greater Londonbetween the 5 and 8 December1952, accompanied by a sudden rise inmortality that far exceededanything previously recorded duringsimilar periods of smog.
THE LONDON SMOG: LOSS DYANAMICS4000+ deaths in between 5-8December12,000 unexplained and additionaldeaths during the episode and in the2 months after the peak fog ebbed(Bell and Davis 2001)The first reported casualties of thesmog were cattle at the SmithfieldShow. Paramount losses in air , road MIT –Forbes study: The totaland rail traffic. Fire, Burglary. monetized life loss in the UK was estimated at £6–6.2bn or 5.8 to 11.2%Mortality statistics showed that the of gross domestic product quantifiedsmog had the greatest effect on over the next 5 year scalepeople over 65 and those alreadysuffering
THE MAIN CULPRIT: SULPHUR DIOXIDE An anticyclone (an area of high pressure)was centered over S.England - completeabsence of wind. Produced a temperature inversion resultingin cold air to sink in previously unprecedentedvolumes. This made the smog become widespreadand menacing like never before! During the smog, both smoke and sulphur dioxide levels reached exceptional concentrations. Respiratory diseases alone accounted for 59 % of the increase in deaths registered in the week ending 13 December and 76 % in the following week. Bronchitis and emphysema were the two conditions that stood out in the coroners. records as showing the greatest increase.
GAP ANALYSIS: CAUSES OF FAILURE• The improper regulations of the Public Health Act (1936) – chimneyheights, no smoke control areas, age old industrial premises• Legislative bureaucracy of the London Council Committee (LCC) – “95% ofthe smoke came from the 70000 plus homes”• Till 1856 before passing of the Smoke Abatement Metropolis Acts, thecommon belief was smoke behaved as an antiseptic and tonic! –repercussions reached a tumult even a century after stopping.
DISASTER MITIGATION & DISASTER PREPAREDNESS The Clean Air Act 1956, which was later amended and extended by theClean Air Act 1968, constituted the primary legislation limiting pollutionby smoke, grit and dust from domestic fires as well as commercial andindustrial processes.The 1956 Act is probably best remembered for its introduction of SmokeControl Areas, often referred to as .smokeless zones.
DISASTER MITIGATION & DISASTER PREPAREDNESSControl in Industrial Processes:oThe Alkali Act of 1874, string of amendments finally led to the Pat 1 of the EPA 1990oIntegrated Pollution Control – BIG INDUSTRIES & Local Air Pollution Control – SMALL INDUSTRIES.Standards for Ambient Air Quality:oThe Commission of the European Communities- member states to agree levels of pollutant concentrations which were not to be exceeded after a given date.oThe first of these Directives relating to air quality, covering smoke and SO2, came into effect in 1980oThe Environment Act 1995 also established a system of local air quality management. This required local authorities periodically to review and assess the current and future quality of air in their areas
DISASTER MITIGATION & DISASTER PREPAREDNESSChanging fuel useMayors Air Quality Strategy (1999-)o The government has set targets for 9 main air pollutants.o 7 of these pollutants (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), fine particles (or PM10), sulphurdioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and lead) have to beaddressed at the local level, including in LondonoThe other 2 (ozone and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are being tackled bynational and European Union measures.
DISASTER MITIGATION & DISASTER PREPAREDNESSReducing pollution from road traffic:• in the short term, targeting emissions reductions from the most polluting vehicles (mainlyheavier diesel vehicles, such as buses, coaches, goods vehicles, waste vehicles, and taxis)• increasing the take-up of newer, cleaner vehicles and technologies• increasing the take-up of cleaner fuels• investigating the feasibility of introducing one or more low emission zones in London, whichwould exclude the most polluting vehicles from specified areas• for the long term, promoting zero emission forms of transport, such as hydrogen fuel cellvehicles.Sustainable Buildings:A significant proportion (21 per cent) of air pollution in London comes from energy use inbuildings, particularly for heating. The Authority will work to achieve reductions in emissionsfrom buildings by:" constructing more energy efficient new buildings" improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings & power driven instruments inside" using cleaner fuels" using renewable energy technologies such as solar water heating.
HUMANE AND LEGAL MEASURESRole of Business:The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy sets out a number of measures that businesses areencouraged to take, including:• ensuring all vehicles meet cleaner emissions standards• encourage staff and visitors to use the most environmentally friendly means of transport• using government grants to help convert vehicle fleets to the cleanest technologies andfuels.•reporting their business. emissions and demonstrating continuing and meaningfulimprovements in environmental performance.•adopting renewable energy technologies.•improving indoor air quality in the workplaces.Role of Individuals:The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy sets out measures that individuals can all take to improveair quality including:" using public transport rather than travelling by car & buying cleaner vehicles" improving vehicle maintenance and driving style" taking energy efficiency measures such as installing loft insulation or turning lights andheating off when not needed.
A MESSAGE FOR OUR FUTURE“The London story is not merelyhistoric. Conditions insome rapidly developingcountries today can come eerilyclose to those of London, eitherindoors or outdoors. Althoughcoal stoves are not generally theproblem, biomass fuels,garbage, and other incompletelyburned organic materials oftencause unhealthy conditionsinside homes and factoriesthroughout the world. Forexample, in 2010 the meanannual concentration of totalsuspended particulates was 900μg/m3 in Lanzhou, China, and >600 μg/m3 in Delhi, India.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY “50 Years on smog in London” – Greater London Authority 2002print. “50 years on from the clean air act” – P. Brimblecombe “Smog Look back” – Environmental Health Perspectives Vol 110No 12 December 2002 http://www.nickelinthemachine.com/2008/11/a-proper-pea-souper-the-terrible-london-smog-of-1952/ http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2012/04/22/mit-study-air-pollution-linked-with-early-deaths-in-uk/