Suggested Materials

Amazon page for When Smoke Ran Like Water.

When Smoke Ran Like Water on

Topic Search


Found an error? Have a suggestion? Looking to connect?LinkedIn Profile

Email me or visit my LinkedIn profile.


Reading Assignment:
The Donora Fluoride Fog

In the days leading up to Halloween in 1948, a pocket of cold air settled into the city of Donora, Pennsylvania. This created a thermal inversion that trapped emissions from the steel and zinc plants over a period of four days. The acrid smog, which contained toxic levels of fluoride killed 20 residents and sickened up to half of the town's entire population. U.S. Steel never acknowledged responsibility for the incident, labeling it an "act of God." The event did, however, help to trigger a public movement demanding air quality standards. This eventually lead to the Clean Air Act of 1970.

This assignment uses a chapter from the book When Smoke Ran Like Water by Devra Davis to take students back to Donora during 1948 to understand what happened, why it happened, and how they responded. This excerpt is provided with permission from Devra Davis, the author.

Essential concepts: Air pollution, temperature inversion, coal, toxicity.

Reading Passage: Download a .PDF of the full chapter here.

Download free Dreamweaver templates at