Remembering the Killer Smog Disaster

Earlier this week, residents of Donora, Pennsylvania remembered the killer smog of 1948 that killed 20 residents. Nearly half of the town became ill in one of the worst air pollution disasters in history. Now the town has a Smog Museum with the slogan “Clean Air Started Here.”

“It was the first time that people really understood that a lot of air pollution in a short period of time could kill people,” said Dr. Devra Davis of the University of Pittsburgh.

The killer smog of Donora led to local air pollution laws and paved way for the 1970 federal Clean Air Act.

“We want people to realize Donora was a big part of the environmental movement,” Don Pavelko, a Donora councilman, told the NY Times. “The smog in Donora over the years had been looked upon as a black eye. The older folks just didn’t want to talk about it because they thought it was bad publicity.”

The killer smog hung over the valley town for five days as a pocket of warm air trapped industrial chemicals from steel plants. Chemicals in the smog included sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide, and fluorine.

The town’s death rate remained high for years after the incident. Residents hope their museum will help to prevent similar incidents around the world.

What would you do if a toxic cloud formed over your town?

To learn how to protect your family, see my advice in Chemical Leak Forms Toxic Cloud Over Pennsylvania.

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