What a great tragedy this was, and it is fairly recent as far as history goes. It was on this day in 1952 when the greatest smog disaster in London occurred. Granted, it wasn’t only on this day, and depending on the account one reads, one may find it began on the December 4, but it certainly lasted longer than the 5th.
Leading up to this event, the weather in England of late 1952 had been unusually cold. People were burning coal to stay warm, and there was a light fog that came about on late December 4/December 5, and it did not life. No one really thought much about it. It was just fog. What they did not realize was all the harmful smoke and sulfur dioxide that were in the air–5 to 6 times normal.
As the week went on, casualties occurred. There were a few accidents due to the fog, but the main issue was respiratory/cardiovascular problems. In fact, people would go to sleep and not wake up. It is estimated that at least 4000 people died! Most of these people were over 65 years old, but the infant mortality rate doubled during this week as well.
Following this great disaster (that lasted about a week), the authorities outlawed the use of coal, and they passed legislation to keep this from happening again. Cars are, of course, a real nemesis, and the government is still trying to regulate air pollution from these vehicles.
Here are some sites that cover this disaster in greater depth: