Search This Blog

Thursday, 29 July 2010

London Pride And Pong

Wikipedia, under the title “Great Smog” has an article on the 1952 Great London Smog which over a period of a few days led to the deaths of around 12,000 people and had major effects on an estimated 100,000 more. It is likely that a larger number had some sort of reactions and how many might have sustained damage leading to later medical issues is not known. The figure will be high.

A few days after it ended I was down in London for several days and although at meetings in Westminster luckily was lodged in Putney which had been much less affected. Despite a few days of wind and rain the smell and foulness still persisted and everything in Central London seemed to have a coating of filth.

Much of this was relatively visible being made up of soot and other particles. It was not simply traffic fumes. This was the era of coal fires and boilers and in the central areas of London there was still a good deal of real industry and manufacturing. Also, there were coal fired power stations by the river and coal fired shipping on it. Many of the trains crossing the river were steam hauled by coal locomotives.

Earlier this week I was in London by Westminster and in Covent Garden. The air quality was foul. In my opinion we were close to being back to 1952. But this was a summer event arising from anticyclone weather, heat and high humidity. Clearly there was a great deal of traffic.

By the Embankment Station is a place where coaches pick up and put down travellers and tourists. This reduces the road to one lane in either direction and the traffic is backed up all along the river.

But a good deal of the immediate heat and bad air in the streets was being vented from all the food places and other buildings by their ventilation and air conditioning systems and it wasn’t going away. Then there were the hordes of people, snaking lines of tourists, lots of shoppers and all the workers in a hurry.

In 1952 they would smell of sweat, labour and of the smog. In 2010 many left a long trail of “fragrance” and chemical pollution behind them. The 1952 smells might be washed away, but the 2010 varieties once encountered stick and last and last and cannot be shifted. When you go home they will attach to your fabrics, permeate your wardrobe and bring the smog and filth of Central London to every corner of your home.

If you ask about it to any official body you will be told to try to avoid them and they are no aware of any figures or scientific proof. If the manufacturers are asked they say they do not go inside the body and in any case should they enter the bloodstream but some miracle of their making they cannot possibly enter the vital organs or the brain.

In 1952 as so many Parliamentarians were affected and the corpses were counted something then was done in the Clean Air Act of 1956. Nothing is going to happen now because nobody is counting. In any case all the tourists will be going home.

No comments:

Post a Comment