Our scientific understanding of air pollution has advanced immeasurably since the Great Pea Soup enshrouded London in 1952. We now know, writes Emily Atkin, “that short-term and long-term exposure to air pollution can kill people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions,” thanks to a groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University study of smog-ridden U.S. cities.
“In 1952, a thick, greenish-yellow fog smothered London, halting traffic and daily life. At the time, when households burned cheap coal for heat, factories spewed unregulated smoke, and buses burned diesel fuel, Londoners were used to a certain degree of greasy haze. But the Great Smog… was unprecedented. …Twelve thousand people died,” says Atkin.
“The evidence is so large,” C. Arden Pope, a professor at Brigham Young University world-renowned researcher of air pollution’s impacts on human health, told Atkin. “There are very few people conducting this research and publishing it in the peer-reviewed literature who don’t think fine particles pollution can lead to death.”
And yet, at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), air pollution denial was rampant. Steve Milloy, a member of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, who was formerly a “paid flack for the tobacco and fossil fuel industries” was arguing that air pollution is not linked to premature death.
Although Milloy remains an outlier in a sea of evidence but given Milloy’s closeness to Trump’s inner circle, and Breitbart‘s growing influence on the White House, he may get his way, as the climate change deniers already have in this fact-free administration.