Worst Pollution Outbreaks in History Reviewed

Most of you may or may not know the past events that have led to better awareness of the effect that pollution can severly have on health and the environment. Throughout the course of history, there have been many serious cases that have effected the environment and people’s health globally. Three of the most drastic being,  the Great Smog of 52 that took place in London, the 1948 Donora Smog that took place in Donora, Pennsylvania, and known as one of the worst industrial disaster, the Bhopal disaster that took place in Bhopal, Madhya Prades in India.

The Great Smog of 52 occurred in December of 1952 in London. At the time of the event,  the smog was not significant since London had experienced many smog events in the past. The weather before and during this smog inclined the people in London to burn more coal than normal, to keep warm due to the colder conditions. The smoke from the coal burning in the homes, plus all of London’s factory emissions, had prevented these pollutants from escaping into the atmosphere due to inversion, trapping the particles and gases into the air. Inversion is when the air closer to the ground is cooler than the air above it. Since the cool air is denser then the warm air, this causes the warmer air to be trapped under the inversion, closer to the ground. This caused the thick, smoke polluted air to be trapped. Not only did this great smog reduce the visibility practically as if you were blind, but it stopped the ambulance service, it stopped the public transportation system, and it prevented people from driving and some of the smog even made it indoors. This event also had a big effect on the environment and people’s health. It resulted in more than 4,000 deaths and 100,000 others resulted in a sickness because of the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. This event eventually led to stricter government regulation on air pollution and it led to the Clean Air Fact of 1956 which introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution such as a ban of emissions of black smoke, operators of factories were required to convert to smokeless fuels, and the government was given money to provide funds to households to convert to cleaner sources of energy.

The Donora Smog of 1948 occurred towards the end of October in  Donora, Pennsylvania. The city was use to the smog since there had been a zinc plant and a mill which spewed out sulfur dioxide. But this smog was different, this smog created a burning sensation in your throat, eyes, and nose. This smog prohibited all driving due to the dangerous conditions that were present. The cause of this incident was from temperature inversion, just like the Great Smog of 1952. A mass of warm air was trapped in the valley and then the pollutants in the air mixed with the fog that formed a thick yellow smog over the city for five days and resulted in 20 deaths and over 7,000 sick people. When the zinc plant was asked to shut down during the smog crisis, the company refused. This incident marked the proposal where Americans recognized that exposure to large amounts of pollution can result in health effects and death. The Donora Smog of 1948 triggered the Clean Air Act or 1970 which required the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and enforce regulations from air pollution that can be hazardous to the human health.

The Bhopal disaster was a result of a gas leak in India in early December that resulted in over 3,700 immediate deaths, 10,000 deaths within two weeks after, and over 550,000 injuries. More than 40 tons of methyl isocynate gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal that became the worst industrial disaster in history. About have a million survivors suffered from respiratory problems, feeling of suffocation, eye irritation, some even blindness. The US had a panic, and Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right To Know Act which created controls that were expected to prevent incidents like the Bhopal disaster and it established systems that provided more information to citizens about chemical exposure and risks.

Wrapping this up, as you can tell these disasters all resulted in unfortunate deaths but they also resulted in a change as to how humans and the world looks at the environments. In a way, it taught us effects of what can happen to the health of humans if we don’t start being more careful and providing stricter regulations on how we deal with hazardous chemicals, pollutants, etc. We have definitly gotten better with how we treat the environment, but as always, it could be better.

These events don’t always involve the life of humans, sometimes these pollutants even result in the effect of hazardous conditions to animals – especially marine animals. I’m sure most of you can recall the multiple oil spills we’ve had in the past few years. Although the effect isn’t the same as the ones mentioned above, you know that they had just a big of an affect on the cautiousness and regulations of how we work and deal with chemicals and hazardous material that can potentially harm humans, animals, and the environment.


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