London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of London 1972

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London, City of ]

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ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTION
CITY OF LONDON (VARIOUS POWERS) ACT, 1954
CITY OF LONDON (VARIOUS POWERS) ACT, 1971
CLEAN AIR ACT, 1956
CLEAN AIR ACT, 1968
CHIMNEY HEIGHT REGULATIONS, 1969
CLEAN AIR (EMISSION OF GRIT AND DUST FURNACES) REGULATIONS, 1970

Atmospheric pollution legislation is contained in the above-mentioned Acts and subsequent Regulations and Orders. Work connected with this legislation has resulted in a total of 2,560 visits being made during the year and included the following:

Clean Air Acts —Initial Inspections555
Clean Air Acts —Re-Inspections81
Clean Air Acts —Smoke observations527
Smoke contraventions50
Verbal intimations43
Notices served36
Notices complied with31
Number of complaints dealt with67
Clean Air Acts —Visits to obtain essential information121
City of London (Various Powers)
Act, 1971Visits to obtain essential information430
Clean Air Acts Chimney Height —Number of applications received19
Number of visits in connection
with volumetric survey625
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Sulphur Oxides
On the first of January, 1972, the City of London (Various Powers) Act, 1971, came into
operation, placing the City in the unique position, in Britain, of having statutory powers to deal
with the emission of sulphurous gases from chimneys.
It is commonly known that sulphur dioxide concentration in this area has caused some
concern and when this form of pollution seemed to be lessening in the British Isles generally
by as much as 20% and in Greater London by as much as 10% during the last five years, the level
of concentration in the City has increased.
Sulphur gases are serious pollutants of the atmosphere and in some forms attack building
materials and stonework, damage vegetation, and can adversely affect the health of many people.
Over the years much time and energy has been devoted to the removal or neutralizing of
sulphur compounds from flue gases resulting from the burning of various types of fuel, but formany
reasons no one method has proved to be the final answer. The City Corporation felt that the
answer was to avoid burning fuels which had a high sulphur content.
The legislation proposed by the City of London received sympathetic consideration as
Parliament felt the Corporation had a special case for the following reasons:-
(a) Rapid redevelopment of the area.
(b) Larger quantities of fuel used for heating because of the increase in the capacity of
new office buildings.
(c) Rise in the comfort level provided for occupiers of offices.
(d) Topographical configuration of city buildings does not allow for rapid dispersal of
flue gases.
(e) Chimney heights are comparatively low.
Therefore, a reduction of pollution at source was desirable, as that would lead to a reduction
of SO2 concentration in the vicinity of the City.
The legislation therefore required that furnaces burning fuel oil of more than 1% sulphur
content by weight must, within the next fifteen years, change to a fuel oil of less than 1% sulphur
content. All new oil burning appliances installed within that period will be required to burn such
a fuel forthwith.
In practice, it is often more economical to change over at an early stage for the following
reasons:-
(a) There is a reduction in maintenance costs.
(b) Electricity for pre-heating the heavier oils is not required.
(c) Plant corrosion is reduced.
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