A History of the Causes and Consequences of Air Pollution

  • Peter BrimblecombeEmail author


Persistent pollutants remain in the environment for a long time. This obvious statement makes historical analysis important. Such analysis can be useful at times for even very practical issues such as the record of the activity at old industrial sites, which are planned for redevelopment. Because the atmosphere has a relatively rapid turnover, persistent materials are frequently found as deposits on the earth’s surface. This means there is a transition in the way we approach air pollution in comparison to earlier concerns over the pollutants smoke and sulphur dioxide from coal burning. These have relatively short lives in the atmosphere. There are long-lived pollutants such as nitrous oxide or carbonyl sulphide from aluminium production, that account for an increasing interest in such pollutants and their potential impact on the stratosphere. The best known example of persistence among the long-lived gases is the issue of CFCs and their relation to the widespread concern over the impacts they have on global climate and stratospheric ozone depletion.


Late Eighteenth Century Ancient World Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Early Modern Period Stratospheric Ozone Depletion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bowler, C. and P. Brimblecombe, 1990: The difficulties of abating smoke in late Victorian York. Atmospheric Environment 24B, 49–55.Google Scholar
  2. Brimblecombe, P., 1978: Interest in air pollution among early members of the Royal Society. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 32, 123–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brimblecombe, P., 1987a: The antiquity of smokeless zones. Atmospheric Environment 21(11), 2485–2485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brimblecombe, P., 1987b: The Big Smoke. Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  5. Brimblecombe, P., 2003a: Historical perspectives on health: The emergence of the Sanitary Inspector in Victorian Britain. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 123, 124–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brimblecombe, P., 2003b: Origins of smoke inspection in Britain (circa 1900). Applied Environmental Science & Public Health 1, 55–62.Google Scholar
  7. Brimblecombe, P., 2003c: Perceptions of late Victorian air pollution. In: M. De Puis (Editor), Smoke and Mirrors. University of New York Press, NY, pp. 15–26.Google Scholar
  8. Brimblecombe, P., 2006: The clean air act After fifty years. Weather 61, 311–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brimblecombe, P., 2009: Transformations in understanding the health impacts of air pollutants in the 20th century. The European Physical Journal Conferences 1, 47–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brimblecombe, P. and E. Schuepbach, 2006: Communicating air pollution science to politicians and the public. Journal de Physique 139, 413–423.Google Scholar
  11. Camuffo, D., 1992: Acid rain and deterioration of monuments: How old is the phenomenon? Atmospheric Environment 26, 241–247.Google Scholar
  12. Capasso, L., 2000: Indoor pollution and respiratory diseases in Ancient Rome. Lancet 356(9243): 1774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gari, L., 1987: Notes on air pollution in Islamic heritage. Hamdard 30(3): 40–48.Google Scholar
  14. Green, N.J.L., A. Hassanin, A.E. Johnston, and K.C. Jones, 2004: Observations on historical, contemporary, and natural PCDD/Fs. Environmental Science and Technology 38, 715–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Holmes, J.A., E.C. Franklin, and R.A. Gould, 1915: Report of the Selby Smelter Commission. Department of Interior, Bureau of Mines, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  16. Lamschus, C., 1993: Die Holzversorgung der Lüneburger Saline in Mittelalter und früher Neuzeit. In: S. Urbanski, C. Lamschus, and J. Ellermeyer (Editors), Recht und Alltag im Hanseraum. Förderkreis Industriedenkmal Saline, Lüneburg, pp. 321–333.Google Scholar
  17. Mieck, I., 1990: Reflections on a typology of historical pollution: Complementary conceptions. In: P. Brimblecombe and C. Pfister (Editors), The Silent Countdown. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 73–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schramm, E., 1990: Experts in the smelter smoke debate. In: P. Brimblecombe and C. Pfister (Editors), The Silent Countdown. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, pp. 196–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sheail, J., 2003: Burning bings: A study pollutuion management in mid twentieth century Britain. Journal of Historical Geography 31, January 2005, 134–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wells, C., 1977: Diseases of the maxillary sinus in antiquity. Medical and Biological Illustration 27, 173–178.Google Scholar
  21. Witthöft, H., 1989: Das Maß der Arbeit an Sole und Salz. In: C. Lamschus (Editor), Salz – Arbeit und Technik. Produktion und Distribution im Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Förderkreis Industriedenkmal Saline, Lüneburg.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations