The New “Great Pea Souper”

Submitted by Tristan Dorn

Are you concerned about air pollution? Many Texas natives are familiar with the concept of an “ozone level” which tracks the amount of ground level ozone. We are familiar with spending recess inside during our days in grade school because it was an “ozone day.” According to, ozone at ground level is a type of pollutant that results from heat and emissions, and it can cause difficulty breathing or exacerbate respiratory symptoms. This familiar circumstance is not the only component of air pollution. Additionally, the battle against consequences of pollution is not a new war.

In fact, on December 4, 1952, London became covered in deadly smog, known as a “pea souper,” for 4 days. The air was so dense that visibility was significantly reduced and the sun was almost completely blocked out by the dense, dark air. People couldn’t see their feet when they walked and public transportation was forced to halt due to the dangerous conditions. During this time an estimate of 4,000 to 12,000 people died as a result of air pollution and respiratory symptoms caused by the smog. This prompted the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1956 by the Parliament in London, which created restrictions and guidelines regarding coal use and pollutant emissions within the city.

However, managing air pollution continues to be a mainstay issue among many political circles. On January 23, 2017, London released its first “very high” pollution warning throughout the city. Despite the efforts of the Clean Air act established more than 60 years ago. According to CNN, many countries, such as China, Russia, and India also continue to struggle with pollution. A study performed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that “outdoor air pollution could cost the world a whopping $2.6 trillion a year, or 1% of the global GDP, by 2060.”

While these economic costs are staggering, the estimate of pollution leading to as many at 9 million premature deaths by that time, really hits home. Another article published by CNN predicted that current estimates attribute 3 million premature deaths each year due to exposure to air pollution, with levels increasing to 6.6 million premature deaths yearly by 2050. The article clearly explains that outdoor pollution does not only include industrial pollution and traffic emissions, but it also includes residential causes, such as heating and cooking sources.

The levels of air pollution around the world are contributing to the growing development of a whole new global “Pea Souper.” Although the emissions are not always visible as smog or cloudy puffs of smoke released through tall chimneys, the effects of air pollution are real and tangible, even if the source often is not.




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