30. CLEAN AIR
Air pollution in this country comes from many sources and takes many forms. It
includes not only smoke, gases, dust and grit from chimneys, smoke from locomotives
and ships, exhaust gases from internal combustion engines, but also the fumes, gases
and products of chemical works and industrial processes, and airborne dust from
other sources. Legislation has existed for many years for the control of the emission
of fumes and smoke from certain chemical and industrial processes but no comprehensive
legislation for the control of smoke from domestic sources existed until the
passing of the Clean Air Act in 1956.
The problem of air pollution, and in particular smoke, has been the subject of
much study and research and a large volume of technical knowledge is now available.
In addition to the work of public authorities, various other bodies, notably the
National Society for Clean Air, have long been active in publicising the evils
of pollution and promoting measures of abatement.
Following the great London "Smog " of December, 1952, which resulted in the
deaths of some 4,000 people, a Committee on Air Pollution under the chairmanship
of Sir Hugh Beaver, was set up "to examine the nature, causes and effects of air
pollution and the efficacy of present preventive measures; to consider what further
preventive measures are practicable; and to make recommendations". This
committee reported its findings in November, 1954, and, in 1956, the Clean Air Act
came into being.
The smoke and sulphur dioxide which are produced by the combustion of coal,
oil and other products are harmful to health, damage vegetation, blacken and damage
the fabric of buildings, paintwork, ironwork and add considerably to our laundry
bills. The Beaver Committee estimated that the national cost of air pollution
amounted to some £250 million annually.
The establishment of Smoke Control Areas under the Clean Air Act is one of the
most important methods of reducing air pollution, as recent estimates suggest that
over 80 per cent, of smoke pollution is due to house chimneys.