Wednesday, November 11, 2015


In the wake of the Guardian article the other day ("Airpocalypse now: China pollution reaching record levels"), I was discussing pollution, in the form of the old London "pea soup" fogs, with some friends on Facebook. 

Conveniently, this week's Economist had a review of a book entitled London Fog:  a Biography.  I'm not sure my friends believed the things I said about the old London fogs; but the review quoted some awful incidents that even I hadn't read about. 

This is what happens when several million people at once light up the coal fires to heat their homes in the winter.


  1. K:

    I haven't read your links, but have read accounts of Victorian London, how householders had to take down the heavy window-drapes twice a year to clean the black soot off of them. We went to Edinburgh in 2005, and the old coal-soot was still clearly visible on all the old stone buildings in the city center. I presume they don't heat with coal in Scotland anymore, so that was really chilling.

    How much of the health problems in those big 19th Century cities was the result of pollution?

  2. It's an interesting question, Curtis, that I'm not sure we can answer at this remove. It can't have helped. Was "consumption" (a wasting disease with coughing) actually TB, or was it the side effect of the pea soupers?