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Title: Secret History S06E09 – Killer Fog 1952
File Name: killerfog.avi
Channel Transmitted: Channel Four
Date: Tuesday, 28 September 1999
Category: Documentary / Educational
About The Series:
Secret History was a long running British television documentary series. Shown on Channel 4, the Secret History brandname was used as a banner title in the UK, but many of the individual documentaries can still be found on US cable channels (like Discovery Times or The History Channel International) without the branding. It can be seen as Channel 4's answer to the BBC's Timewatch.
About The Episode:
The Great Smog (or "Big Smoke") of London is the severe smog that affected the city during the period of Friday 5th to Tuesday 9th December 1952, and is acknowledged as the UK's worst air pollution event. Earlier reports suggested that 4000 died prematurely and 100,000 were made ill by the Great Smog, but more recent research has shown that the number of smog-related deaths was underestimated and is now thought to be considerably higher – around 12,000. The London Smog of 1952 is acknowledged as one of the most significant pollution episodes in history in terms of its impact on environmental research, government regulation, and public awareness of the relationship between air quality and health.
Sources of Pollution
The very cold weather preceding and during the smog meant that Londoners had to burn more coal than usual to keep warm. Post-war domestic coal tended to be of a relatively low-grade, sulphurous variety, which increased the amount of sulphur dioxide in the smoke (economic necessity meant that higher quality coal tended to be exported). In addition there was pollution and smoke from vehicle exhausts – particularly from diesel-fuelled buses which had replaced the recently scrapped electric tram system – and from industrial and commercial sources. Prevailing winds had also blown heavily-polluted air across the English Channel from industrial areas of Europe.
On Thursday 4th December 1952, an anticyclone settled over a windless London causing a temperature inversion with very cold, stagnant air trapped under a layer (or "lid") of warm air. The resultant fog mixed with chimney smoke, particulates (e.g. from vehicle exhausts) and other pollutants (particularly sulphur dioxide) to form a persistent smog which blanketed the capital (the presence of tarry particles of soot gave the smog its yellow-black colour – hence the nickname "peasouper"). The absence of significant wind prevented its dispersal and allowed an unprecedented build up of pollutants.
Impact on London
Although London was accustomed to thick fogs this one was denser and longer lasting than any previously seen. Visibility was reduced to a few yards ("It's like you were blind", commented one observer) making driving difficult or impossible. Public transport ground to a halt – apart from the London Underground – and the ambulance service stopped running, forcing the sick to make their own way to hospital. The smog even seeped indoors, resulting in the cancellation or abandonment of concerts and film screenings. Outdoor sports events were also affected.
Initially, there was no great panic, as London was renowned for its fog. In the weeks that followed, however, statistics compiled by medical services found that the fog had killed 4,000 people. Most of the victims were very young, elderly, and/or had pre-existing respiratory problems. Deaths in most cases were due to respiratory tract infections from hypoxia, and due to mechanical obstruction of the air passages by pus arising from lung infections caused by the smog.
The lung infections were mainly bronchopneumonia or acute purulent bronchitis superimposed upon chronic bronchitis.
A total of 8,000 people died in the weeks and months that followed.
The death toll formed an important impetus to the modern environmental movement, and led to a rethinking of air pollution, as the smog had demonstrated its lethal potential. New regulations were put in place restricting the use of dirty fuels in industry and banning black smoke. In the years that followed, various legislation such as the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and of 1968, as well as London's (Various Powers) Act of 1954 greatly restricted air pollution.
Director: MONAGHAN, David
Director: CONNELLY, Steve
Production Company: David Monaghan Productions
Producer: MONAGHAN, David
Producer: CONNELLY, Steve
Script: MONAGHAN, David
Script: CONNELLY, Steve
Size: 368 MB (376,832 Kb / 385,875,968 bytes)
Running Time: 0:49:42.16
Format: .avi 528 x 400
Data Rate: 895 kbps
Video Codec: XviD (XviD 1.0.3)
Video Info: 25 fps 1536 Kbits/sec
Audio Codec: MPEG-1
Audio Bit Rate: 128 kbps
Audio Info: 48kHz PCM Stereo
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