35 vintage photos reveal what Los Angeles looked like before the US regulated pollution

A motorcyclist in Los Angeles prepares to turn while driving along a street which is engulfed in a thick haze combined by fog and smog in 1958.

Los Angeles has had air pollution problems since before smog was a term.
In 1943, people began to notice the smog when it covered Los Angeles so thickly that residents thought Japan had launched a chemical attack. The city continued to have smog problems for decades.
President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, which introduced air pollution regulations, and it was a major factor in combating the city’s smog problem.
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The city of stars could be called the city of smog.

Los Angeles has had years of thick air pollution due to a ballooning population, unregulated industry, a booming car industry, and its natural geography.

The Washington Post described it as “eye-burning, lung-stinging, headache-inducing smog.”

In 1943, during World War II, pollution blanketed the city so intensely residents thought Japan had launched a chemical attack. Over the next three decades, improvements came, but they were slow.

The biggest victory against smog came in 1970. President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, which led to air pollution regulations, and allowed California to make even stricter provisions within its state.

Here’s what it used to be like.

Los Angeles has a history of smog. The problem is exacerbated by its natural geography — the sprawling city is shaped like a bowl, which traps fumes blown by Southern California’s sea breeze, and causes them to linger over the city.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Los Angeles Times

In July 1943, a particularly bad bout of smog caused red eyes and running noses. People thought the city was under a chemical attack from the Japanese. The Los Angeles Times called it a “black cloud of doom.”

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Wired

During the 1940s people began to notice the smog, but many thought it was clouds. They weren’t. According to the Los Angeles Times, “It was just the poor quality of the air that was a hazy, acrid, smelly, burning presence.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

It wasn’t called smog then. The Los Angeles Times once called it “daylight dim out.” But the term “smog” eventually entered the popular vernacular — mixing the words smoke and fog.

Sources: LAist, Los Angeles Times, Oxford English Dictionary

At times, the city disappeared entirely.

People felt its effects. Here, women dab their eyes and noses as the world outside appears impenetrable.

In 1949, smoke from a trash dump covered the city. Later, fearing the effects of smog on the city’s inhabitants, Gov. Goodwin Knight restricted the open burning of garbage. It was made illegal in 1958.

Source: Los Angeles Times

On bad days, cars would appear from out of the smog. Visibility was so bad that people had car accidents.

Source: LAist

Like this one in 1948.

The city had more than one million cars by 1940.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

But it wasn’t until the early 1950s that car exhaust was established as one of the primary causes of smog.

Source: Wired

Cars contribute to ozone, which was the main cause of the smog. The ozone …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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