NEWS / Blog / Learning the lessons from London’s Great Smog


06 DEC 2022


Sarah Horrocks, chair of EIC’s Air Quality taskforce, on what the Great Smog can tell us 70 years on.

It is now 70 years since London’s Great Smog, an atmospheric event which led to an estimated 4,000 deaths and – as seen by the media coverage of the event this week – has left a lasting impression on London and its people.

London’s pollution today is less “visual” but its effects are just as severe. The truth is that air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), linked to an estimated seven million deaths a year, and it can affect everyone, to some extent, at every stage of their life.

In the UK, recent estimates suggest that long term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) was responsible for between 29,000 to 43,000 premature deaths for adults aged 30 and over in the UK in 2019.

A range of legislation was released which culminated in the Clean Air Act (1956), which guided UK policy for the next 30 years. Sarah Horrocks, Atkins

EIC members are at the forefront of the fight against air pollution. They create the technology and deliver the services which can monitor, mitigate and assess air pollution. Their innovation is developing filtres, sensors and other technology to reduce pollutants in the first place. They are providing the tools so governments at all levels around the world can take informed and evidenced-based decisions on air pollution.

Our Air Quality Taskforce brings members together working in this space. We’ve a busy programme ahead for 2023, and would love any like-minded companies to get involved – email the membership team to find out more.

I read with interest Simon Birkett of Clean Air London’s history of the Great Smog, and it was clear to me that If there is one thing that it can teach us, it is that legislation can work. Following the event, a number of debates and decisions were taken in Westminster and elsewhere. Over the coming years, a range of legislation was released which culminated in the Clean Air Act (1956), which guided UK policy for the next 30 years and ultimately put an end to that type of air pollution in London.

As the Environment Act continues its legislative journey, our taskforce will feed into the advocacy activities of EIC, ensuring we can unlock measures which both improve our air and ensure we are given the best possible platform to make a positive difference to the world we live in.

Sarah Horrocks (Atkins) is chair of EIC’s Air Quality taskforce.

Sarah Horrocks

Sarah Horrocks

Head of Air Quality and Emissions, Atkins

Sarah is chair of EIC's Air Quality Taskforce.