An inquest into the death of nine-year-old Ella starts today after a medical report suggested there was a direct link between her illness and poor air quality near her home in Lewisham, London.
From a young age, Ella suffered from severe asthma and in February 2013 she passed away with the cause of death recorded as respiratory failure.
However, questions about the reason behind her severe asthma have been asked ever since and have led her mother Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debra to set up The Ella Roberta Family Foundation, with an objective to urge the government to improve policies to reduce air pollution.
In 2015, Stephen Holgate, a leading expert on asthma and air pollution got in touch with Rosamund.
Through looking at Ella’s medical records and analysing by air pollution monitors near where they live, 25 metres from the South-Circular, Stephen Holgate confirmed that the type and severity of Ella’s asthma were directly linked to exposure to air pollution.
The report found that air pollution levels near Ella’s home ‘consistently’ exceeded the EU limits for air pollution over the three years prior to her death.
If the inquest is successful, Ella may be the first person in the world to have air pollution recognised as a cause of death on their death certificate.
This could have huge ramifications for future air pollution policy, helping to protect those exposed to toxic air pollution and helping to hold local authorities to account.
Katie Nield, a lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said: “The UK Government needs to sit up and take notice of this crucial inquest.
‘The government has been failing on its existing legal obligations to make our air safer to breathe for over 10 years now, dithering and delaying despite court orders – and this apathy is fatal.
‘To prevent future tragedies, the law needs to be strengthened to better protect people’s health. That’s why the government needs to commit in the Environment Bill to a legally binding target to achieve World Health Organization guideline levels for harmful particulate matter pollution by 2030 at the latest.’
Photo Credit – Ella Roberta Family Foundation