Air pollution caused death of 9-year-old, coroner rules

A court has ruled that air pollution made a material contribution to the death of 9-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, marking the first time a person in the UK has had air pollution listed as part of the cause of death. 

Today, after a gruelling 10-day inquest, coroner Philip Barlow has ruled that exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in excess of World Health Organisation guidelines contributed to Ella’s death. 

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 by analysing 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.

Following the inquest, the coroner has now concluded that a failure to reduce air pollution contributed to her death, as did the failure to provide her mother with information about the potential of air pollution to exacerbate asthma. 

Caroline Russell, Green Party transport spokesperson and London Assembly member, commented on the ruling: ‘We have the tools to clean up our air, and every level of Government must use every single one of them, to save lives in the future.

‘In London, this means expanding the ULEZ to the M25, and making our streets safer and more accessible so walking and cycling are the most convenient ways to get around. In the end, we must cut the overall number of miles driven. This means a smart fair system of road charging by the mile and according to engine emissions.

‘Traffic clogged roads are not inevitable. Since the pandemic, the square mile of the City of London has been almost completely car free, with thousands of daily deliveries made on foot and by cargo bike. If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere we find toxic levels of pollution.’

Pippa Neill


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keith BAKER
keith BAKER
3 years ago

Engine emissions are not important and the majority of local traffic pollution are from non-exhaust emissions, at the same time the majority of PM pollution is from Germany and Netherlands, so a London ULEZ is a waste of time in terms of human health. All these efforts are futile until action is taken on non-exhaust emissions and such innovations are decades way, as EV won’t help.

3 years ago

Contributed to – is not “cause.”

Is it just me?
Is it just me?
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil

Without doubt, people in poorer parts of London have not fared well with air pollution – and Johnson, our present P.M going all ‘green’ is quite hypocritical considering he buried data about air pollution during his time as Londons’ mayor. However, we need to balance sensible policies on transport with health. Finding sensible ground on transport policy though – isn’t exactly something the UK government (both labour and conservative alike) have a great track record of. So – look forward citizens to more taxes, more fines, more confusing bureaucracy and more costs (all of which will be passed onto clients or absorbed into the bottom line).

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