Deadly Smog Anniversary | Weather
60 years ago this week, the worst smog to ever hit London killed an estimated 12,000 people. It was a deadly combination of typical London fog and heavy coal combustion.
For the several weeks leading up to the event, London had been experiencing very cold temperatures. Because of this, people were using their coal burning furnaces and stoves more frequently in order to stay warm. Add that to a large area of high pressure over the system creating wind-free conditions, to coal created a thick layer of smoke that combined with some dense fog to create a thick layer of smog over the city. It lasted from Friday, December 5th all the way to Tuesday, December 9th before finally clearing out when the weather changed.
Not only did this cause a major disruption on travel due to zero visibilities, the smog penetrated indoor areas such as schools, businesses, and homes, and that is what made the biggest impact on health. It was not an immediate concern though. In fact, it was in the 2 weeks that followed that an estimated 4,000 people died, and over 100,000 became quite sick. A few years later that number of 4,000 was upped to 12,000 when it was later determined that other respiratory deaths were caused by the smog (such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and heart failure. It is important to note that while London experienced heavy smog in the past, no other event had caused quite the impact as this one.
It is considered the worst air pollution event of the history of the United Kingdom, and caused several changes of practice and regulations, including the Clean Air Act 1956.