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LENGTH: 5 min
CATEGORY: Educational & Instructional, Sound, Color
PRODUCER/PUBLISHER: US Public Health Service, Division of Air Pollution
Film historian Jennifer Peterson analyzes a set of six 1960s-era films about air and water pollution and the growing environmental and human ruin they’ve wrought. The 1960s marked a turning point in the expansion of popular awareness about environmental problems. The six titles, made between 1960 and 1972, show the emergence of modern environmentalist discourses. All frame pollution as a problem caused by human industry. But in the films made later in the decade, we see the emergence of a broader critique of post-World War II consumerism and waste. Co-produced by the U.S. Public Health Service and a range of commercial and nonprofit institutions, the films reflect an era in which government took a leading role in educating the public about environmental health threats. This film sketches the problem of air pollution and its causes—smoky factories, industrial waste fouling rivers, auto emissions—in broad strokes, using alarmist rhetoric that builds a sense of crisis but offers no solutions…. Read The Essay
Stills from Sources of Air Pollution
Other Films Featured in the Essay “Darkening Day: Air Pollution Films and Environmental Awareness, 1960-1972”
In the Collections of the National Library of Medicine
NLM Rare Books & Early Manuscripts Collection
Air pollution in Donora, Pa: Epidemiology of the Unusual Smog Episode of October 1948
Free Films on Air Pollution [Many of these films are available from the National Archives and Records Administration]
NLM Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection
Pope A. Lawrence Papers 1924-1983. Located in: Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; MS C 539. Series 3: Air Pollution Control Office.
Remarks by John E. Fogarty at the Air Pollution Control Association Dinner, 1958 in Profiles in Science
NLM Prints & Photographs Collection
Related Resources from the National Library of Medicine
See current information on air pollution from MedlinePlus and NLM Environmental Health & Toxicology resources.
Articles and Websites
Orphan Film Symposium 2020: Climate, Water, Migration. Several of the films featured in this essay were presented at the 2020 Orphan Film Symposium. Dozens of other rare titles dealing with the environment were also presented at the international conference.
Watch: Darkening Days, 11:00 am session on “Climate Wednesday,” Orphans Online, May 27, 2020.
Other Related Resources
Learn more about disparities in the impact of air pollution, how to check air quality in your area, and children and the environment.