The Donora Smog Revisited: 70 Years After the Event That Inspired the Clean Air Act

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41 Scopus citations


At a storefront museum approximately 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a sign reads, "Clean Air Started Here." This is not hyperbole. At the end of October 1948, the communities of Donora and Webster in Pennsylvania were visited by a smog that changed the face of environmental protection in the United States. Conservative estimates showed that 20 individuals died, while an additional 5900-43% of the population of Donora-were affected by the smog. This event led to the first large-scale epidemiological investigation of an environmental health disaster in the United States. Questions remain about the long-term effects of the smog, because higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer than were expected were observed in the region in the decade following the smog. Recent work has suggested that environmental contaminants from a bygone era in Donora might have an impact even today. In addition, reports regarding air pollution have indicated that levels of pollutants similar to those estimated to have occurred in Donora are currentlypresent insomerapidly industrializing regions of China and India. Seventy years after the smog, this event still resonates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S85-S88
JournalAmerican journal of public health
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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