Air Pollution

August 26, 1949

Report Outline
Air Pollution in an Industrial Society
Damage and Waste Due to Air Pollution
Methods of Controlling Air Pollution

Air Pollution in an Industrial Society

Findings on causes of the 1948 disaster at Donora, Pa., shortly to be published by the United States Public Health Service, will again direct public attention to the harmful effects of air pollution and to the many problems that must be solved before new forms of pollution can be brought under control.

Studies begun in the early years of the century demonstrated that personal discomfort and property damage due to smoke can be largely eliminated. A pall of smoke over cities is no longer regarded as the price society must pay for the benefits of industrialization. Many American municipalities have made good progress in abating the smoke nuisance, but striking evidence has accumulated during recent years that other contaminants can have far more destructive effects than any ever associated with smoke. In certain localities, and under certain weather conditions, the fumes and gases produced by new industrial processes may hold a threat not only to human comfort and material things but also to life itself.

Los Angeles County in California is a relatively smokeless area; oil and natural gas are the principal fuels. Yet, beginning with the summer of 1943, residents of the county began to experience 10 to 20 days a year when tears streamed from irritated eyes. These days were marked by “smog,” a combination of fog, smoke, fumes, and other elements. Visibility was markedly lowered, particularly in downtown Los Angeles. On the worst days, from 40 to 80 per cent of the county's 3½ million inhabitants were thought to be affected. Crop damage was also reported. Subsequent investigation disclosed that the principal cause was release into the air of sulphur compounds incident to oil refining and of organic peroxides due largely to incomplete combustion of fuel oils. Major offenders, in addition to the oil refineries, were the metallurgical industries and the large number of refuse dumps which burned all day and night.

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Aug. 26, 1949  Air Pollution
Air Pollution