Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility. The term "smog" was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog. The smoke usually came from burning coal. Smog was common in industrial areas, and remains a familiar sight in cities today.
Smog, community-wide polluted air. Its composition is variable. The term is derived from the words smoke and fog, but it is commonly used to describe the pall of automotive or industrial origin that lies over many cities. The term was probably first used in 1905 by H.A. Des Voeux to describe atmospheric conditions over many British towns. It was popularized in 1911 by Des Voeux’s report to the Manchester Conference of the Smoke Abatement League of Great Britain on the more than 1,000 “smoke-fog” deaths that occurred in Glasgow and Edinburgh during the autumn of 1909.
Smog is often categorized as being either summer smog or winter smog. Summer smog is primarily associated with the photochemical formation of ozone. During the summer season when the temperatures are warmer and there is more sunlight present, photochemical smog is the dominant type of smog formation. During the winter months when the temperatures are colder, and atmospheric inversions are common, there is an increase in coal and other fossil fuel usage to heat homes and buildings. These combustion emissions, together with the lack of pollutant dispersion under inversions, characterize winter smog formation. Smog formation in general relies on both primary and secondary pollutants. Primary pollutants are emitted directly from a source, such as emissions of sulfur dioxide from coal combustion. Secondary pollutants, such as ozone, are formed when primary pollutants undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Photochemical smog, which is also known as “Los Angeles smog,” occurs most prominently in urban areas that have large numbers of automobiles. It requires neither smoke nor fog. This type of smog has its origin in the nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon vapours emitted by automobiles and other sources, which then undergo photochemical reactions in the lower atmosphere. The highly toxic gas ozone arises from the reaction of nitrogen oxides with hydrocarbon vapours in the presence of sunlight, and some nitrogen dioxide is produced from the reaction of nitrogen oxide with sunlight. The resulting smog causes a light brownish coloration of the atmosphere, reduced visibility, plant damage, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory distress. Surface-level ozone concentrations are considered unhealthy if they exceed 70 parts per billion for eight hours or longer; such conditions are fairly common in urban areas prone to photochemical smog.