As Beijing raises its smog alert from “yellow” to “orange” — the second-highest pollution warning level in the nation — 5,000 miles away in Britain, London is experiencing its own pollution problems.
The capital, known for its suffocating soot and smoke during the industrial age, once weathered the most severe air-pollution event in history — the Great Smog of 1952. Coal use coupled with a period of cold weather converged to blanket the city with a thick layer of pollution. The smog snap inflicted respiratory problems on many Londoners, killing thousands. The devastating event signaled a call for changes in regulations, among those a Clean Air Act.
Only 60 years later, London is facing dangerously high levels of air pollution again.
Not even the queen can escape the city’s smog. In a new study by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), researchers found that Buckingham Palace suffers from the highest level of air pollution in the country, at almost four times the European legal limit.
As a result, the European Commission has threatened to file a lawsuit against the United Kingdom for failing to reduce its high levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is the main byproduct of diesel cars and trucks. Britain, which missed a deadline of Jan. 1, 2010, for curbing the gas, faces up to 300 million pounds in fines.