Invisible Dust

London | Wednesday 16 January
Pollution level: Moderate

London – 60 Years After the Great Smog


December 5, 1952 – a thick, yellow smog descended upon London. It brought the city to a grinding halt for four days and is estimated to have caused nearly 4,000 deaths. Some blamed the government, which had been exporting ‘clean’ coal abroad, and selling ‘dirty’ coal, which was high in sulphur, domestically. Nearly all of its 8 million inhabitants used open coal fires, and the smoke, combined with exhaust from cars and pollution from factories, blanketed the city with the worst smog ever recorded.

The NHS issued emergency smog masks in many parts of Britain, and legislation soon followed to prevent such a disaster from happening again. This included the City of London (Various Powers) Act of 1954 and the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, which banned emissions of black smoke and implemented the use of smokeless fuels for both residents and factories in urban areas.

60 years later, pollution remains a serious issue in London. The thick coal smoke of the 50s has been replaced by invisible pollution, like that caused by traffic fumes. There have been allegations that city officials hid a number of ‘high’ air pollution events during the Olympic Games, and it is estimated that air pollution in the capitol is the culprit behind nearly 13,000 early deaths each year. From 2009 to date Invisible Dust has been working with artists and scientists to expose this ‘invisible’ pollution that is damaging our health and the environment.


1 comment

  1. Marcus Gibson says:

    The smog was a killer, certainly, but not as much as the cold weather, that persisted from the 1940s to mid-1960s. How many of you on ‘Invisible Dust’ can recall the winter of ’62?
    The so-called ‘invisible’ pollution of today is barely measurable, even by the most modern instrumentation. Time to get real. No city official ‘hid’ air pollution – they didn’t need to – the capitol (sic) was empty.. The only Olympic city to empty itself in order to hold the Games without gridlock..

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