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Smoke and health

At the same time, however, the gloomy atmosphere that hung over the industrial towns was mirrored by a growing utilisation of practical, dark coloured materials. For example, paints, furniture, and clothes were all deliberately chosen with the smoky air in mind. As one consumer put it, 'When making [a] purchase, [the] question is - will it show the dirt soon?'227 The light, fresh colour schemes favoured in Regency and early Victorian rooms were gradually discarded for more functional, dull shades of brown, red, and bottle green that did not show sooty streaks so readily.m Nonetheless, despite the widespread adoption of a functional range of appropriately drab colours, it was alleged that the constant need for repainting made Manchester a 'paradise' for painters and decorators?29 At around mid-century furniture began to be manufactured in the darkest woods available, mahogany, bog oak, black walnut, and rosewood, with artificially blackened oak also becoming a very popular materiaJ.230 Moreover, high levels of air pollution in the factory towns made it extremely impractical to wear light coloured clothing, and both men and women were compelled to dress indarkapparel. 231 'Manchester suits for Manchester soots' was the aptly barbed slogan of one enterprising tailor in the city.232 And laundries, like painting and decorating firms, were reputed to be flourishing in the city, as curtains and clothing had to be washed far more frequently than in non-industrial towns.233 Margaret Penn observed that clothes which could have been worn 'clean and stiff for a month of Sundays' at Hollins Green were 'not fit for putting on a second time' after just a single encounter with 'the black dirt of Manchester' ?34 The 'smoke nuisance', then, touched every aspect of domestic life, powerfully influencing a multitude of common everyday decisions and activities. Air pollution greatly increased the burden of washing and housework for women, stimulated a taste for comfort and ornamental decoration, and encouraged people to spend far more time indoors. Furthermore, smoke affected the quality oflife for people living in urban-industrial areas in a more fundamental way, by seriously damaging their health.