“On July 26, 1943, Los Angeles was blanketed by a thick gas that stung people’s eyes and blocked out the Sun. Panicked residents believed their city had been attacked using chemical warfare. But the cloud wasn’t an act of war. It was smog. So what is this thick gray haze actually made of? And why does it affect some cities and not others? Kim Preshoff details the science behind smog.”
“Smog is a type of air pollutant. The word “smog” was coined in the early 20th century as a portmanteau of the words smoke and fog to refer to smoky fog, its opacity, and odor. The word was then intended to refer to what was sometimes known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in London from the 19th century to the mid 20th century. This kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates among others (less visible pollutants include carbon monoxide, CFCs, and radioactive sources). Human-made smog is derived from coal emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions.
Modern smog, as found for example in Los Angeles, is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. In certain other cities, such as Delhi, smog severity is often aggravated by stubble burning in neighboring agricultural areas. The atmospheric pollution levels of Los Angeles, Beijing, Delhi, Mexico City, Tehran and other cities are increased by inversion that traps pollution close to the ground. It is usually highly toxic to humans and can cause severe sickness, shortened life or death.”