The Great Smog of ’52 or Big Smoke was a severe air pollution event that affected London during December 1952. A period of cold weather, combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants mostly from the use of coal to form a thick layer of smog over the city. It lasted from Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 December 1952, and then dispersed quickly after a change of weather.
Although it caused major disruption due to the effect on visibility, and even penetrated indoor areas, it was not thought to be a significant event at the time, with London having experienced many smog events in the past, so called “pea soupers”. However, medical reports in the following weeks estimated that 4,000 people had died prematurely and 100,000 more were made ill because of the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. More recent research suggests that the number of fatalities was considerably greater at about 12,000.