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Clean Air Act 1956

The Clean Air Act of 1956 received royal assent in July 1956. The Act was passed with the aim of tackling the smog and air pollution created by the burning of coal and industrial activities.

Great Smog of London

Prior to the enactment of the Act, the 'great smog' of 1952 descended on Greater London. While merely considered an inconvenience for many, the smog exacerbated the health problems of those with chronic heart and lung conditions.

This resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of deaths during the great smog, with 4,075 additional deaths. There were so many deaths that florists reportedly ran out of flowers.

Beaver Committee

Following the great smog, a committee was set up, chaired by Sir Hugh Beaver, which identified the source of the smog as pollution from solid fuels. The committee then made a number of recommendations that formed the basis of the Clean Air Act 1956.

Legislation and impact

The Act gave local authorities the power to control emissions of smoke, grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises and furnaces, and set up smoke control zones. In these control zones, emissions of any of these materials could be banned.

Following the legislation, the age-specific death rates of men in Greater London fell by almost half.


The House of Commons.
Clean Air Act 1956 (repealed 27.8.1993).
legislation.gov.uk; 1948.

Rivett G.
1948-1957: Establishing the National Health Service.
nhshistory.net; nd.

Trivedi C.
The Great Smog of London.
BBC; 2002.