We have the ability in this country to address air pollution and global warming. It isn’t just a nuisance. It makes things so dirty that it kills people, animals, water, and soil worldwide.
We remember. We continue.
Much of the material in this blog comes from a paper published by the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum commemorating the 70th Anniversary of this disaster. Please consider visiting the museum.
Don’t forget to REGISTER for the
2018 PA Interfaith Power & Light Conference
In Dr. Patricia DeMarco’s book, Pathways to Our Sustainable Future, she highlights the importance of
MOBILIZING AWARENESS TO ACTION.
It suddenly became clear. Not only was the livestock industry threatened by a deteriorating environment, but i, my children, my students, my fellow citizens, and my entire country would pay the price. The connection between the symptoms of environmental degradation and their causes — deforestation, devegetation, unsustainable agriculture and soil loss — were self-evident. Something had to be done. We could not just deal with the manifestations of the problems. We had to get to the root causes of those problems.Wangari Maathai
The Donora Works of American Steel and Wire Company stretched nearly three miles along the western bank of a horseshoe bend in the Monongahela River twenty-five miles south of Pittsburgh. In the early hours of Tuesday, October 26, 1948, a temperature inversion silently settled over the Mon Valley steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania. Combined with the sulfur trioxides and fluorine gasses pouring out of the Zinc Works into the stagnant atmosphere, the stage for a disaster was set. By Wednesday, October 27, visibility was as limited as anyone could remember and people were having difficulty breathing…..
The mill continued to run at full capacity. Years later Harry Loftus, a Donora resident reasoned, “Remember, these guys stormed the beaches of Normandy. Do you think a little smoke was going to bother them?”
It rained on Saturday, October 31 breaking up the deadly inversion. The Donora Board of health estimated over 4,600 had been made ill, hundreds evacuated to local hospitals and 21, 22, 27 had died. The funeral homes ran out of caskets. Dr. Clarence Mills of the Kettering Institute said, if the smog had lasted another day or two “the casualty list would have been closer to 1,000 instead of over 20.”
American Steel and Wire and United States Steel and the Zinc Works called the disaster an “Act of God.”
Blinding smog opened people’s eyes to the mortal dangers of air pollution. It gave rise to local, regional, state and national laws to reduce and control factory smoke and culminated with the nation’s Clean Air Act of 1970.
The commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Donora Smog Disaster, the deadliest air pollution incident Ibn U.S history will go largely unnoticed and unappreciated outside a select group of educators, historians, journalists, environmentalists and dwindling number of aging locals who can still recall the horrors of that Halloween week end.