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From the Editor's Desk
Donora and London ’52: Never Again

For this year’s issue on the environment, I decided to pull the term “environmental standards” like taffy, and stretch it to cover what you’d probably expect (standards that help ensure the quality of our natural environment) and what you might not automatically think of (standards that measure the conditions of our indoor environments). In addition to our feature content on standards for the outdoor environment, it’s good to have two articles this month from ASTM International’s Committee D22 on Sampling and Analysis of Atmospheres — one on monitoring chemical hazards in the workplace and another on monitoring asbestos. It’s been quite some time since SN last highlighted some of D22’s very valuable work in developing standards, which they do not only for indoor air quality, but for meteorology as well.

Committee D22 was established over 50 years ago into a newly awakened concern with air quality. In 1948, three years before D22’s inception, a lethal smog had overcome Donora, Pa., asphyxiating 20 and forcing the hospitalization of roughly half the town’s 14,000 residents. Later, in 1952, London, England, would be overcome by a similar disaster that would take thousands of lives and sicken many people during and in the weeks following the five-day smog siege. The Industrial Revolution and the use of coal in domestic hearths had finally taken a dramatic toll, which threatened to become a more regular occurrence, and it got the urgent attention of government officials and scientists.

Since then, D22 has provided ongoing support for air quality monitoring efforts, not only through its standards development, but through its extensive symposia program. The committee’s well-known Johnson Conference, held in Vermont every other year, came out of the gate powerfully in the 1960s when its proceedings influenced the creation of a U.S. federal agency. Two men who would later create the Environmental Protection Agency, Arthur Stern and Vernon McKenzie, requested that D22 develop a symposium, to be held at Goddard College in Vermont, to attract an international group of scientists who could discuss the problems of air quality. According to a D22 informational packet, out of the proceedings of this symposium, “a position paper was prepared which would be used as a philosophical basis of the Clean Air Act and the creation of the EPA.”

Since that creation of EPA in 1970, there has been a powerful synergy between that agency and all of the ASTM International committees that write standards and promote research on environmentally related matters. It is clear from the content of this issue that ASTM committees and the EPA benefit each other in myriad ways, from committee use of EPA research to the agency’s adoption of ASTM standards. And thanks to this interaction, citizens in industrialized countries can live without fear of another Donora or London ’52.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

Copyright 2004, ASTM International