London, England, 1952

The most striking fact about the London Fog of 1952 was not that at least 4,000 people died from it, and possibly many more, but that at the time no one seemed to recognize it was a disaster. Everyone knew, of course, that for four days the fog was so thick that traveling throughout the city was almost impossible. Few realized, however, just how deadly it was. After all, London had been notorious for its fog for a very long time. Romantic notions were attached to the fog, with events in many a thriller, period novel, and film set amidst fog-bound London. For the residents of London, the fog was a frequent, if unwelcome, guest who was becoming a bit of a nuisance.

Aggravating the thick, soot-laden air from the city’s industries and household fires was a temperature inversion that deepened the impacts.  The combination was insidious. For five days, the air over the city was black and yellow, day became night, and everyone and everything was covered with soot.  Those who suffered were the most vulnerable —the very young whose physical strength and defenses were as yet not fully formed, and the old whose biological systems were already breaking down.  The particulate matter and other contaminants that they inhaled simply overpowered their respiratory systems.

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