Of course air pollution isn't a new phenomenon at all. Many civilizations, even back before the Industrial Revolution, had trouble keeping the air clean.
In 900 BC, for example, Hit, a town located in present-day Iraq, which was then the center of asphalt mining, was hit with a visit from the Egyptian King, Tukulti, who reported a strange smell in the air generated by the ulmeta rocks, which are high in sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.
Closer to home, England has long suffered from the adverse effects of air pollution. In 1157, Henry II's wife, Eleanor, left her home in Nottingham because the pollution caused by burning wood was "unbearable."
A couple hundred years later, England became so dependant on coal, King Edward I, outlawed its burning, exclaiming, ""¦whosoever shall be found guilty of burning coal shall suffer the loss of his head."
In The Big Smoke: A History of Air Pollution in London since Medieval Times, author Peter Brimblecombe even notes that the original purpose of the black umbrella, long associated with London businessmen, was to ward off "inkey rain" caused from excessive coal burning in the 1700s.
Today, the World Health Organization estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution"¦ a figure we think should be everybody's beeswax.