Poor air quality listed as cause of 9-year-old London girl's death - GulfToday

Poor air quality listed as cause of 9-year-old London girl's death


A mobile phone displaying a photograph of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. File / AFP

A British coroner ruled on Wednesday that excessive air pollution from traffic fumes contributed to the death of a 9-year-old girl who died of a fatal asthma attack.

The girl is believed to be the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death on their death certificate. Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived close to one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, died in February 2013 after making almost 30 hospital visits over the previous three years.

UKgirlmotherRosamund  Adoo-Kissi-Debrah poses for a photograph in London. AFP

Her mother has long fought to have the role of air pollution in her daughter’s death recognised. Coroner Philip Barlow said Wednesday after a two-week hearing that he concluded Ella "died of asthma, contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution.”

"Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma,” he said, adding that in the three years before her death, the girl was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines.

"The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions,” Barlow said, adding there was a failure to reduce the pollutants to within the limits set by European Union and UK law.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that the coroner’s conclusion was a "landmark moment.” The inquest highlighted the importance of implementing policies such as expanding a low emission zone to inner London, he said.


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Between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in Britain each year are thought to be linked to air pollution. According to figures from the London mayor's office, WHO-recommended limits for air pollution are broken in virtually all of the British capital.

Across the world, the global health body says air pollution kills some seven million people every year and nine out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds guideline limits on pollutants.

Low- and middle-income countries are worst affected, leading to premature deaths from conditions including strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.
GirldeathRosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah holds her mobile phone displaying a photograph of Ella. AFP

"This landmark ruling at last recognises the deadly impact of air pollution," said the co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas.

The British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK said the inquest had laid bare the "invisible dangers of breathing dirty air" and set a precedent for a "seismic shift" in government policy.


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