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Don’t Let it Die: Reinvestigating the 1948 Donora Smog Tragedy through an Archaeological Approach

Author(s): Timothy A Kotlensky

Year: 2016

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Summary

In October 1948, 19 residents of the Pennsylvania town of Donora died due to industrial air pollution. Another fifty residents would die over the following weeks and several hundred more would battle lung ailments for the remainder of their lives. This particular air pollution – a combination of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and fluorine – originated from a smelting plant situated within U.S. Steel’s Donora Zinc Works that made zinc used in galvanizing steel wire products. This paper aims to identify the industrial origins and human impacts of this tragedy through an archaeological approach supported by period maps, photographs, findings of investigations, and testimonies previously gathered from survivors. Further, through GIS, the progression of the smog can be retraced from its source through nearby neighborhoods. This approach permits an understanding of the built environment and landscape – much of which remains intact – that contributed to the Donora smog tragedy. 


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Don’t Let it Die: Reinvestigating the 1948 Donora Smog Tragedy through an Archaeological Approach. Timothy A Kotlensky. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 435108)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 916

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America