That Creeping Menace Called Smog
  • No tags were found...

That Creeping Menace Called Smog

Donora, Pa., ly+a: This deadly fog, a mixtiire of warm, siagnant air and factor;gases, smothered the city. Twenty persons died and ,W1O oiliers were sickened.That Creeping Menace Called SmogPollution of the air ho\'ers over most of our cities, costs us billionsin health and property damage, and sometimes kills.A Donora victim is rushed loiht hospital. Shesur\'ived. Many elderly asthmatics literally strangled tu death.By Leigh Whitelvcmcmbcr the days when summer resortsused to brag abtjut the ozone in their air? Allu'c knew about ozone then was that it was aheavier form of gaseous o.xygcn, light blue incolor and pungent to the taste and smcU. Ifoxygen was good for us, the argument ran,why shouldn't ozone be even better?We now know that ozone, far from being theinvigorating tonic that it was once supposed tobe, is a poison gas as deadly as any that hasever menaced our communal health. We know,too, that there- is much less ozone in the cleanair of the countr^'sidc than there is in the dirtyair of some cities afflicted with the sort of smogsthat occur in sunlight. The ultraviolet rays ofthe sun, it seems, cause ozone to form whenevera stagnant mass oí air becomes loaded withmotor-exhaust fumes. This is why the authoritiesof Los Angeles and olher cities are so worriedabout their increasingly congested tralTic.Smith Griswold, the Los Angeles County AirPollution Control OflTicer, is prepared for the

35worst. Last summer ho entered a gas chamberand exposed himself for two hours to a mixtureof air containing two parts of O2one per million."I folt all right during the first half hour," hetold me, "but during the second half hour Isuffered from chest constrictions. During thethird half hour I had trouble concentrating,and during the fourth half hour I was as highas a kite, I felt as if I'd drunk six martinis. Thenext day I began to cough up clear mucus,"Immediately after the experiment, Gri.swoldwas examined by Dr. Hurley Motley, of theUniversity of Southern California, who foundthat he had lost twenty-five per cent of his vitalcapacity. In other words, he vva.s one quarterdead. Griswold, a former ,Stanford footballguard, is a lean and powerful man of fortyseven.Had he been older or less healthy, or hadhe remained in the gas chamber very muchlonger, he might have died. As it was, it tookhim several days to recover his full vital capacity,and several weeks to get over his cougli.Jet pilots have developed the same symptomsafter flying in the ozone layer of the upperatmosphere. Ordinary citizens, exposed toweaker concentrations of ozone in the Los Angelesair, complain only of eye, nose and throatirritations, which are probably due more to thephotochemical oxidation of the atmospherethan to ozone alone. What the long-range effecton their health will be, nobody knows,which is why Doctor Motley, al Griswold'sbehest, is now experimenting with volunteersat the Good Samaritan Hospital.Ozone is but one of the many pollutants thatfoul a city's air. To define the entire problemand control the creeping menace of air pollution,experiments are being carried out allover the United States these days by expertsworking with private and public organizations.Tlieir progress is recorded twiee eachmonth in Smog News, a press review publishedby the American Society of MechanicalEngineers in New York. In Chicago last winter,the Armour Research Institute organizeda four-day conference on air pollution, and inSt, Loui.*! this summer the Air Pollution ControlAssociation—a group composed largely ofmunicipal smoke inspector—will celebrate itsfiftieth anniversary by holding another fourdayconference on the subject.Two years ago. Congress authorized theUnited Stales Public Health Service to spendup to$5,000,tX)0 a year over the next five yearsto develop a nation-wide Community Air PollutionControl Program, The Public HealthService, although it has yet to spend Ç,'i,OOO,-000 in any one year, has since organized a nationalair-sampling network. In Cincinnati, atits new Robert A. Taft Sanitary EngineeringCenter, it has established a vast laboratory fortesting air samples and new devices for mca.suringand controlling air pollution.In Louisville, at the request of the municipalauthorities, the Public Health Serviee is directinga two-year survey of local conditions as abasis for formulating a model air-polluiicn ordinance.In the meantime, with and withoutthe help of the Public Health Service, municipalofficials all over the country are regularlytesting the local for a wide variety of dusts,smokes and vapors, including what, in thecoal-burning cities, is probably the most commonpollutant of all—sulfur dioxide. This is acombustion gas, (Continued on Pace 122)\ L-rnon Hanson, an (-nginccr al ü LÜnciouali !aboraior>, pini up diskscut from filters exposed to samples of air from various Amcncan ciiits.Disks sbow tlio (yp.-—not necessarily the degree—of air pollution.Los Angeles, SL-ptcmbcr, \'j5ú. A rttord attiick of siroç mado citizens iwcp. ,Somi; resorted (o improvised gasmaska frighi). Authorities in sunny cities worr>'about increasingly congtsLcd traffic, because thcaun's rays causeozone,now known to be a iwi.son uas, to foim WIICIICVLT a siaçnaniair mass is loaded with molor-exhaust fumes.Jacksonville, Fla,, t£HÍJ: Nylon stockingsdisinicgralcdwhen exposed to air polluted by sulfuric acid.New Vork, lfJö3: Visitors found a London-style fo" overManhattan. The eity remained shrouded for a week.

That Creei)in¿>- Menace Called Smog(Coniinucd from Page 35)emitted, along with carbon monoxide andcarbon diovide, from almost c\er>' stack,chimney ;ind auiomolivc-exhausl pipe.And in Los Angeles the Franklin ResearchInsiiiute of Philadelphia and theSt;inford Research instiUiic of P;ilo Altoare busily measuring "Compound X." asubstance not yet idL-nlitncd. which is suspectedof being one of the principal agentsin the formation of local smogs.All this research dales bjck to J disasterof nine years ago al Donora, Pennsylvania.In the early hours of Wednesday.October 27, 19-18, a blanket of warm,stagnant air settled over the valley of theMonongaheb Ri\i.'r. In and aroundDonora, luenty miles soulh of Pittsburgh,the fog of the night before was trapped.By noon it had combined \\ ilh lhc smoke,fumes and gases of Donora's factories loform a smog so dense ihat people found itdifficult to see and breathe.Smog was nothing new lo lhe 14,000inhiibiiants of Donora and the hule lownof Webster on lhc other siJe of the river.Donora's steel-wirc mill, /inc smelier andsulfuric-acid plant had been polluting thevalley for years. Most of lhe vegetationhad perished on the oncc-fenik slopes ofthe horscshoo bend in which Donora andWebster are situated. \et nescr beforehad the inhabitants of the area experienceda smog as bad as this one.On Thursday, the second da>, it wasworse. Visibility wa.s so poor. e\en wilhthe help of street lights, that many nativeslosl iheir way. Not a breeze stirred to dispersethe poisonous murk. Toward eveningpeople began to complain of coughs,sore throats, chest constrictions, nauseaand diarrhea.The first human being died in the earlyhours of Saturday, October thirtieth. BySunday afiernoon, when a ramslormfinally brought relief, nineteen pt-ople haddied and 5910 had been stricken withacute symptoms of smog poisoning. Alater deaih increased lhe total of humanfataliiies lo twenty. In the meantime, hundredsof domestic animals had perished—cats and dogs in the towns, livestock andpoultr>' in the countryside.What caused ihe Donora tragedy? Accordinglo lhe Uniied Stales WeatherBureau, a prolonged "temperature inversion"in the presence of "antic>clonicconditions" allowed lhe pollularis inDonora's air lo mi\ and concentrate lo alethal degree.Air is a naturally lurbuleni médium.Breezes disperse its pollutants horizontally,warm, upward currents dispersethem veniailly. Al Doncra ihesc naturalprocesses were interrupted for four and ahalf days. An inversion lid—a layer of airwarmer than the air below—closed downover the valley walls, preventing eitherhorizontal or vertical dispersion ofDonora's smog.lhe poUuianls involved were ne\erpositively identified. The Public HealihService would say only that, while sulfurdioxide was probabl> the worst otTender,two or mort pollutants were probably atfault.What happened to Donora could happento almost any industrial communityin the same unlucky circumstances. Donorawas neither the lirst nor ihe worst instanceof this peculiarly modern form ofepidemic; il was merely the firsi and theworst that hat) yet LKCurred in lhe UnitedStates.The firsl smog known lo have causedfatalities c>ccurred in Belgium in 1930.Sixty-three people died in the fall of Lhatyear in the vicinity of LiOgc, an industrialtown in the Meuse River Valley. Theworst smog occurred in 1952. when from3500 to 4000 people died in Greater London.Although the smog lasted only fourdays, it caused almost as many deaths perday as the influenza epidemic of 1918 orthe cholera epidemic of 1854. In thespring of 1956, after an acute episode lastingonly eighteen hours, another 1000Londoners died. In each instance, sulfurdioxide was suspected of being the pollut;intmainly responsible for illness anddeath.The word "smog," a combination of"smoke" and ••fog," seems to have beeninvented bya British physician in 1905. Itwas firsl used in tho United States by theWeather Bureau at Indianapolis in 1926.What smog is, nobody knows, except thatit involves the suspension in the air ofgaseous, liquid and solid pollutants. Theonly agreement among scientists is thatsmog can be measured in terms of eyeirritation, reduced visibility, damage lovegetation and the presence in the air ofa wide variety of oxides and oxidizingagents.We pollute the air every time we smokea cigarette, light a ñre or go for a drive ¡nLook ol ProsperityThoueH my wallet is thick.1 could readily thin ilBy ¡ust taking outAll lhe cards carried in it.By S. Omar Barkerthe family automobile. We have also pollutedthe air in recent years with radioactivity.But so far the pollution causedby nuclear weapons and power plants isas nothing compared with the everydaypollution caused by more familiar sourcesof heal and energj'.Smogs vary between twocxtremelypes,each named for the city where it was firstobserved and studied. The London typeof smog has been plaguing man ever sincecoal was lirst used for heating and industrialpurposes in ihe thirteenth century.Largely a consequence of lhc incompletecombustion of solid fuels, "London"smog tends to occur in the absence ofsunlight and the presence of high humidity—onfoggy nights, for example.The new Los Angeles type of smog hasbeen plaguing man only since lhe developmentof motor transportation. Incompletecombustion is again largely toblame, but here Ihe fuels are liquid andlhe altendant circumstances are reversed :"Los Angele^" smog tends lo form inperiods of sunlight and low humidity.A smog needn't be smoky or even blackor brown in color. It can be almost anycolor, depending upon lhe nature of localactivities. Oflen it is a mixture in whicheither London or Los Angeles characteristicspredominaie.Sulfur dioxide, which is present in bothtypes of smog, tends to be more heavilyconcentraled in the London type. Ozonetends to be more heavily concentrated inthe Los Angeles type. Both types, in thesedays of automotive congestion, containirriialing oxides of nitrogen and cancerforminghydrocarbons.Which of the iwo types of smog is themore dangerous has yel to be determined.So far. only the London type is known toha\e been responsible for widespread fatalities.Yet the Los Angeles type is potentiallyso dangercus that the city forwhich it was named is spending S4,000,-000 a year—far more than any othercity^—lo bring Its problem under control.Air pollution costs the American peopleapproximately 52.000,000,000 a yearin damage to crops, livestock and propertyalone. Il corrodes metals, pits stonebuildings and monuments, and interfereswith air, rail and highway transportation.It soils even'thing, including the clotheswe wear and the laundry hanging on theclothesline. What it does to our healthhas yet to be fully calculated. At lhe veryleasl, it probably shortens our lives tosome extent by damaging our vilal organs.iVlost of the studies carried out to datepoint to smoii as a contribulor>' cause ofrespirator^' cancers. In recent months, 1have spoken to several experts on the subject,including Dr. Clarence A. Mills, ofthe University of Cincinnati. DoctorMills and his daugliter. Dr. MarjorieMills Porter, are firmly convinced thatcancers of the lungs, bronchi and lat^'nxare cfien a cumulative result of the combinedirritation caused by tohacco smoke,moior-exhaust fumes and urban air pollutionin general.In one study, they found thai smokingcommuters from Cincinnati's suburbs increasetheir chances of dying from respiratorycancers from two to three timessimply by driving in heavy traffic to andfrom the city every day. Nonsmokers increasetheir chances of dying from thesame sort of cancers hy from 50 to 60 percent. Heavy smokers who drive trucksand taxicabs in lhe city, and who also livein heavily polluted neighborhoods, arefrom 40 to 120 times more prone lo respiratorycancers ihan nonsmoking farmers,regardless of how many miles peryear the farmers drive.T H E S A T U R D A Y E V E N I N G P O S TThe moral would seem to be ihat if youdrive a lot you shouldn't smoke, and ifyou smoke a loi you shouldn't drive, especiallyin heavy traffic. Whatever you do,you should neither smoke nor drive verymuch if you live in a heavily pollutedneighborhood.In studies carried out in Chicago,Detroit, Nashville and Atlanta. DoclorsMills and Porter have also found a directrelationship between urban air pollutionand the incidence of pneumonia andpulmonary tuberculosis. The heavier theload of soot and dust in the air, the higherthe incidence of boih diseases—especiallyamong smokers.In their latest study. Doctors Mills andPorter have found that the same generalizationsapply lo ceriain forms ofheart disease. It appears that smokerswho drive regularly in polluted areas areas prone to coronary thrombosis as theyare to diseases of the respiratory tract.Air pollution menaces the health ofplants in the same way ihat it menaces lhehealih of domestic animals and humanbeings. Orchid growers, for example, wereamong the first to suffer from the smogsthat afflict Los Angeles and San Francisco.They were also among the first tosuffer from the Los Angeles lype of smogthai now afiliéis Honolulu.Here again, motor-exhausi fumes seemto be at faull. A woman grower in Hawaiicomplained not long ago that her orchidshad been stricken wilh a diseasecalled •'do' sepal" immediately followinglhe sugar harvest. Investigators foundthat for the first lime large quantities ofhar\esled sugar cane had been hauledpast her orchid farm in diesel-poweredtrucks.Some time later, an oil company appliedfor permission to build a refinery onSand Island at the entrance to Honoluluharbor. The Public Health Service, askedto make a sludy of the project, recommendedthat permission to build the refinerybe granted only if the oil companyagreed to take extraordinary precautionsto protect Waikiki and other beaches andthe bait fish on which Hawaii's tuna catchdepends. The company has accordinglypromised to dump the refinery's moredangerous water-borne pollutants far outat sea. It has also promised to minimizeits contribution to Honolulu's smog byrecovering or incinerating its more dangerousgases.In and around Portland, Oregon, themain problem in recent years has been theemission of fluorides from the stacks ofaluminum plants in the Columbia RiverValley, Many lawsuits have been filedagainst the operating companies, andthey have gone to great expense to reducetheir pollution of the air to tolerablelimits.One company is now appealing the secondof two jury decisions awarding arancher a total of 585,293 in damages. Inhis first suit, the rancher obtained 547,000for damages to the health of his cattle andlhe pasture land on which they grazed. Inhis second suit, he was awarded 538,293for damages to his own health and thehealth of his wife and daughter.Fluorine, in small amounts, is beneficialto the health, but beyond certain concentrationsit can be injurious. The point atissue in the rancher's case is whether thealuminum plant was polluting the air wilhenough fluorine to cause fluorosis, a diseaseof the teeth and bones. The companyhas invested 52,500,000 to date in filters,precipitators, scrubbers and other antipollutionequipment.In Texas last year, the authorities ofHarris County indicled fifty-four corporationsthai opera te industrial plants alongthe Houston Ship Channel. The purposeof the blanket indictment was not topunish the companies, but to force themto comply with Harris County's new airpolluiionordinance. All but three of thedefendants have since begun to installantipollution equipment in iheir factories.The cost to lhe main offenders—sevenpaper, cement and chemical manufacturers—willexceed 56,000.000..At its worsi, air pollution is a seriousmenace to lhe publie health. At its best, itis a costly nuisance, as women all over thecountry can testify. For some reason,women in nonindustrial Washington,D,C.. were the first to complain, in 1941,that their nylon stockings were mysteriouslyfalling apart. In 1949 an epidemicof stocking runs occurred in Jacksonville,Florida, Sulfuric acid in the smoke fromships in the Si, Johns River seems to havebeen at faull.Three years later a similar epidemic occurredin Ihc vicinity of the PennsylvaniaStation in New York. Last year an epidemicof runs occurn;d in Chicago justwest of the Loop; every woman who enteredthe area lost her stockings. Thosewho wore the same skirt and shoes thenext day lost another pair, no matterwhere they went.Sulfuric acid seems lo have been at faultin both instances, but where it came fromwas never determined. Chicago's investigators,while looking for possible sourcesof sulfuric acid, discovered that motorexhaustfumes tend lo destroy nylons too.Women who jaywalk in the midst of vehicleswailing at stop lights can lose theirstockings if a driver happens to put hisfool on the gas pedal al the moment theypass his exhaust pipe.Knitted nylon sLockings are more vulnerableto sulfuric acid than woven nylonmaterials. Thus, as one commentatormused, "The prospect of a young lady inan all-nylon ensemble , . . ending up inher skin is... unlikely, though charming."Molor vehicles, factories and railroadsam not the only {.Canihiiied on Page ¡25)

IComhiuej from Page 122) sources of airpollution. Domestic chimneys contributemon: than their share to the smogs thatafflict our cities. Another common sourceof air pollution is the burning of leaves,trash and garbage. In someeities the ownereof defective furnaces and incineratorsarc being foreed to install new equipment.In others the private burning of refusehas been prohibited on smoggy days.As a boy in Si. Louis, whieh was thenreputed to be the smoggiest eity in theUnited States, I knew fall and winter daysso dark that we never turned ofT the electriclights. If we ventured out on smoggynights, my friends and I would tic handkerchiefsaround our faces to keep fromcoughing. Later we would remove thehandkerchiefs and compare the moist,black imprints of our lips and nostrils.The Citizens' Smoke AbatementLeague, I remember, used to display horrifyingphotographs of what the smog wasdoing to our lungs. Lectures were givenon the dangers of air pollution, and citizens»ere urged to equip their furnaceswith mechanical stokers, switch from softcoal to hard coal or coke, or at least ñmtheir furnaces in such a way as to assurebetter combustion. Many people installedoil burners rather than stokers: some ofus switched to hard coal or coke; but thegreat majority went on burning dirty softcoal in hand-fired furnaecs, oblivious o[the menace oT the ever-increasing smog.Tt was ncl until 1940 that [he sniokeabatennentforces, with the help of thcPost-Dispatch and other local newspapers,won their memorable victor>' overthe producers and consumers of soft coiil.On Tuesday, November 28. 1939. St.Louis had suffered Ihe worst smog in itshistor>-. So many influential citizens wererevolted by "Black Tuesday," as it wuscalled, that the board of aldermen finallypassed the ordinance (hat partisans ofsmoke abatement had been advocatingever since 1892.Raymond R. Tucker, the man whodrafted the St. Lojis ordinance was aformer professor of mcchanicLil-cnginceringat Washington University. He is nowserving his second term as a grateful city'smayor.Today, thanks partly to strict enforcementof its air-pollution ordinance, andpartly to the increased use of petroleumand natural gas. St. Louis is one of ourcleaniîsL conl-burning cities. Low-volatile"smokeless" coal must now be used inhand-llred furnaces, and high-volatile"smoky" coal must be washed before itmay be used even in stokers. Railroadsmust use "smokeless" coal or diesel orelectric locomotives within the city limits.Unfortunately, the St. Louis ordinanceapplies only to the city proper. Youcan still approach St. Louis from the castwithout being able to see the city untilyou have crossed the Mississippi River,leaving behind the dirty industrial 5ul>urbs of St. Clair and Madison counties,in Illinois.Pittsburgh, which followed St. Louis'example in 1947. has been somewhatmore successful in abating its smokeproblem, thanks to legi.-ilation thai husbeen extended to all of Allegheny County.Cincinnati, which promptly followedPittsburgh's example, has been somewhatless successful. Its ordinance does not applyto the dirty industrial suburbs ofKenton and Campbell counties on theKentucky side of the Ohio River.No sooner had Cincinnati abated itssmoke problems, however, than the London-lypcsmogs from which it sufferedbegan (0 acquire Los Angeles characteristics.The sun-obscuring smoke pails ofearlier years had apparently impeded theformation of ozone. Now that Cincinnatican sec the sun again during the fail andwinier smog season, the concentration ofozone in its atmosphere has begun to rise.How dangerous is ozone'!' The Los AngclcsCounty Air Pollution Control Districtbelieves that the presence in the airof as little as half a part of ozone in amillion parts of atmosphere is enough towarrant d first alert. If the concentrationever rises to one part per million, a secondalert will be ordered; and, if it ever risesto one and a hülf parts, a third alert,equivalent to a State of emergency, willfollow.During a first alert, the public is requested,by means of press, radio and televisionannouncements, to reduce itsdriving to a minimum and to stop burningrefuse. The police and hr£ di;partmentsare instructed to warn flagrant offendersand, if nece.ssarj, to arrest them.In 1955 there were fifteen first alerts; in|y56 there were only ten."I hope it means that our control programis beginning to work." said Dr. LeslieA. Chambers, the distnct'.s director ofresearch. "But it may mean only that wehad better weather in 1956 than we hadin 1955.-'The highest concentration of ozone yeirecorded in Los Angeles wjs .64 parts permillion, a figurereached on September 13.1955, The Control District was ready toorder J second alert on September fourteenth,but Ihe ozone in the air began todiminish.In spite of all the controls in force, expertsin Los Angeles fear that the local.smog problem [Coniiuueil on Pu^c IJ7)NEWROYAL TRITONrVnnouncing a now lonmilationof Royal Triton 10-30...the amazing purple motor oilNow more than ever, all-weatlier Royal Triton 10-3U prolongs yourengiiic't; truuljk'-fri-e jn^rformance for thousands of extramili-s. Royal Triton 10-,SO-tlie all-wcolher grade of the amazing¡nir\>lii motor oils. Ask for it wherever fine motor oils are sold.UNION OIL COMPANY OF CALIFORNIA"We happen to be on our lunch hour."SI. - K.««. Ci(,, Me: 0.3 W, ÍTin SI. . CM», 31a FId.lll, U„lo„ Ul. QMllOilconi^UINal'l Bonk DlCDTimiicuaidD.BRAN D/NAM ES "tg^e it easy for you to buy ilie BEST

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines