Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The law has been concerned with air pollution for centuries. Smoke and fumes were considered a nuisance at common law, but not a nuisance per se. Thus, each case stood on its own facts. Very early in our history special statutes were enacted to give more adequate protection from air contaminants. As early as 1306 the use of "sea-coal" (as distinguished from charcoal) was forbidden on penalty of death. Queen Elizabeth is said to have forbade the burning of coal in London during sessions of Parliament. In 1661 John Evelyn wrote a book on air pollution; his plan was to move all industries to the leeward side of the city of London and plant sweet smelling and aromatic flowers and trees in the city. Blackstone tells of a lead smelter, the fumes from which were a nuisance killing the neighboring farmers' corn.