NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

London Fog: A Century of Pollution and Mortality, 1866-1965

W. Walker Hanlon

NBER Working Paper No. 24488
Issued in April 2018
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Environment and Energy Economics

This study provides new evidence on the impact of air pollution in London over the century from 1866-1965. To identify weeks with elevated pollution levels I use new data tracking the timing of London's famous fog events, which trapped emissions in the city. These events are compared to detailed new weekly mortality data. My results show that acute pollution exposure due to fog events accounted for at least one out of every 200 deaths in London during this century. I provide evidence that the presence of infectious diseases of the respiratory system, such as measles and tuberculosis, increased the mortality effects of pollution. As a result, success in reducing the infectious diseases burden in London in the 20th century reduced the impact of pollution exposure and shifted the distribution of pollution effects across age groups.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24488

 
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