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Donora Before and After Clean Air Standards - Permanent Link
Monday, August 06, 2007

Posted by: Jim
What's the Life and Times About?

Well, this reminds me of my days growing up in rural Pennsylvania, just outside Donora, PA. Although the picture presented at the top of the page is not exactly like anything of a farm house seen back in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the image still brings back the thoughts of the homestead.

I was born a decade after the Donora tragedy that sparked today's clean air standards laws.

What Happened in Donora

Beginning the week of October 23rd, 1948, Donora and the entire Pittsburgh area were experiencing foggy weather. A weather phenomenon called an inversion, in which a warm air mass traps cold air near the ground, had also set in over Donora. The inversion contributed to a deadly smog which lingered over Donora from October 28th through the 31st, containing extraordinarily high levels of sulfur dioxide, soluble sulfates, and fluorides. According to the PA Bureau of Industrial Hygiene, such contamination of the atmosphere was caused by a combination of the zinc smelting plant, steel mills' open hearth furnaces, a sulphuric acid plant, slag dump, and coal burning steam locomotives and river boats. The inversion helped to keep the pollutants close to the ground where people inhaled them. At least 17 people were killed within a 24-hour period, and nearly half the population of Donora experienced varying degrees of illness, such as sore throats, irritation of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract, headaches, breathlessness, vomiting and nausea. Another 50 residents would perish over the course of the next month from lingering health damage.

by Rachel Filippini, GASP Executive Assistant
Group Against Smog and Polution


Here is another article concerning the fluoride fog cloud that had formed because of the temperature inversion.

The "Donora Death Fog"

Horror visited the US Steel company-town of Donora on Halloween night, 1948, when a temperature inversion descended on the town. Fumes from US Steel's smelting plants blanketed the town for four days, and crept murderously into the citizens' homes. If the smog had lasted another evening "the casualty list would have been 1,000 instead of 20," said local doctor William Rongaus at the time. Later investigations by Rongaus and others indicated that one-third of the town's 14,000 residents were affected by the smog. Hundreds of residents were evacuated or hospitalized. A decade later, Donora's mortality rate remained significantly higher than neighboring areas.

The "Donora Death Fog", as it became known, spawned numerous angry lawsuits and the first calls for national legislation to protect the public from industrial air pollution.

A PHS report released in 1949 reported that "no single substance" was responsible for the Donora deaths and laid major blame for the tragedy on the temperature inversion. But according to industry consultant Philip Sadtler, in an interview taped shortly before his 1996 death, that report was a whitewash. "It was murder," said Sadtler about Donora. "The directors of US Steel should have gone to jail for killing people." Sadtler charged that the PHS report helped US Steel escape liability for the deaths and spared a host of fluoride- emitting industries the expense of having to control their toxic emissions. (A class-action lawsuit by Donora victims families was later settled out of court.)

This article appears in the Fall 1998 Earth Island Journal
by Chris Bryson
See the story at www.fluoridation.com


So, it is wise to remember the past, so we can make positive changes for our future good.

Jim

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posted by Jim Warholic @ 3:39 PM,

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