The Great Smog of London

On Friday, Dec. 5, 1952, a thick yellow smog brought London to a standstill for more than four days and is estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people. London was the world’s biggest city at the time, and nearly all of its 8 million inhabitants used open coal fires. A blanket of cold air became stationary over the city and combined with the warm smoke-laden air created a blanket of sulfurous smoke so dense that pedestrians couldn’t see their feet. Some of those who died fell into the Thames River and drowned because they couldn’t see it. Legislation followed the great smog of 1952 that banned emissions of black smoke and required residents and factories to convert to smokeless fuels. While London’s air may appear to be much cleaner today, it’s still dangerously polluted.