Pre Industrial Revolution

Documentation of air pollution begins as early as ancient Rome when the statesman Seneca complained about the "stink, soot and heavy air" in the city [1]. Coal usage increased in England during medieval times because coal became less expensive and wood became scarce, and air pollution problems intensified, particularly black smoke and fumes. It became so bad that in 1257 Queen Eleanor was driven from Nottingham Castle by the smoke and fumes rising from the city below [2]. In 1283 and 1288, there were complaints about air quality in London because coal, which was used by the various smithies and the general public for home heating, was now being used in lime kilns. By 1285, London's air was so polluted that King Edward I established the world's first air pollution commission, and 22 years later the king made it illegal to burn coal [1]. This Royal Proclamation in 1307 forbade the use of coal in lime burners in parts of South London; however, this proclamation did not work, and a later commission had instructions to punish offenders with fines and ransoms for a first offense and to demolish their furnaces for a second offense [2]. Eventually, economics (high-priced wood versus low-priced coal) and a change in government policy (laws to save the few remaining forests) won out over the populace's comfort, and London was to remain polluted by coal fumes for another 600 years [2], leading the poet Shelley to write in the early 1800s: "Hell must be much like London, a smoky and populous city" [1].

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