Medicine · Natural Disasters · New York · United States

November 24, 1966-Mystery Smog Kills 400 in New York

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I live in an area that has what is called “an inversion” every dang winter. They explain it and explain it, and I just roll my eyes. Warm air trapped under cold air or something. What does it mean to me? Terrible air!! As if January and February weren’t cold, gray, and gloomy enough. Then we need to add nasty air into it. Lovely.

Two years ago, I was sitting at work talking with a gentleman from the Philippines. People were talking about the inversion and a few walked by coughing. He was visiting us temporarily, so I took it upon myself to explain to him what our inversion meant. He laughed at me and proceeded to tell me how horrifying the air quality is in the Philippines.

I have definitely been much more grateful for the air in my lovely home state, even during inversions.

As I scrolled through historical events on November 24th, a line jumped out at me. “Killer smog kills 400 in NY.” Wait. What?

Smog? Killed 400? Holy crap! How is that even possible?

I had to learn more.

“On Nov. 24, 1966, a killer smog blanketed New York City, spurring emergency anti-pollution measures into action.”

Manhattan Smog - DNU
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According to an article in Business Insider, Americans weren’t very concerned about air quality. They had many factories, plants, and vehicles in the New York all the time, and air pollutants never really crossed their minds until it was visible to them.


: fog mixed with smoke : a cloud of dirty air from cars, factories, etc., that is usually found in cities

:  a fog made heavier and darker by smoke and chemical fumes; also :  a photochemical haze caused by the action of solar ultraviolet radiation on atmosphere polluted with hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen especially from automobile exhaust



The weather had turned colder because it was nearing Winter, as it is on this current November 24th. Warm air was trapped underneath the cold air. The air pollutants got trapped in with all the warm air. “Smog doesn’t generally occur because of a sudden increase in air pollutants, but because of certain weather conditions that trap pollutants in the air. And because smog is a very visible example air pollution, it can trigger dramatic responses. ”

NY Smog from 1953 Image Source:

The Chicago Tribune wrote the following in their November 25, 1966 newspaper front page:

“Masses of stagnant air wrapped the New York metropolitan area in a sooty blanket tonight, pushing the city’s air pollution index past the danger point. The smog, which thickened as the night fell and the air became dense with automobile exhaust fumes, presented a general health hazard and a serious threat to persons with respiratory ailments.

Austin N. Heller, the city’s commissioner of pollution control, said the danger index reached 60.6 between 8 and 9 p.m.–five times the normal amount of harmful materials in the air. The index measures the amount of sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. A reading of 50 is considered an indication of dangerous pollution.

Heller said he was considering calling a first level alert in the city’s air pollution warning system. ” —

“The United States eventually adopted stronger pollution measures, including the Clean Air Act in 1970, which regulated emissions from factories and cars. ” —

Sadly, readers….this is all I could find. My research skills have failed me tonight. I can’t find more details!! I can’t find more information. More pictures. If you can help me, send me information! I welcome all information as long as it’s linked to the source.




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