The Effects of Pollution from the Industrial Revolution

Written by charles alex miller
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The Effects of Pollution from the Industrial Revolution
Coal, a fossil fuel, became a mainstay during the Industrial Revolution. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The Industrial Revolution, which started in England, provided more food and jobs and advanced technology in the countries it affected. While it did change the world for the better in many ways, it introduced high levels of pollution. The effects of this were often deadly, and in some ways, can still be seen today.

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Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a period in world history between approximately 1760 and 1850, although some historians insist it began almost two centuries earlier. This period saw gradual changes in agricultural practices, the production of textiles, coal mining and use, transportation and iron extraction and use. Overall, the Industrial Revolution created a greater supply of food, raw materials and industrial products: three things essential for population and economic growth.

Air Pollution

London, a main area of the Industrial Revolution, became notorious for its incredibly high air pollution concentrations during that time. Smog, a chemical compound that combines smoke and fog, was constantly present in London's skies. High levels of smog can be deadly. In fact, in 1873, around 700 Londoners died from smog in one day. The burning of coal during the Industrial Revolution eventually contributed to globing warming, which environmentalists are still battling today.

Water Pollution

Water quality was severely diminished by population booms that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. By the middle of the 19th century, London and Paris had populations of 1 million and 2.4 million people, respectively. Without a modern sewage system, nearly everyone was dumping human waste into these cities' rivers. Consequently, typhoid and cholera, two diseases borne from human waste, outbreaks occurred in both cities. In fact, in 1832 alone, more than 20,000 people died in a particularly bad cholera outbreak in Paris.

Eventual Pollution Regulation

By the late 1840s, water quality conditions in Europe began to improve due to the London Board of Health's regulatory actions. The Metropolis Water Act of 1852 mandated certain companies to move their operations outside London's city limits. The companies were also required to make changes in their filtration and storage techniques. By 1874, cholera was basically eliminated in London. After the Great London Smog in December 1952, which killed around 4,000 people, British lawmakers introduced legislation to move industries to more rural areas. As a result, between 1970 and 1994, British cities reported a 60 per cent decrease in sulphur dioxide, a main ingredient for acid rain.

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