London air pollution ruled factor in girl's death

2020-12-18 12:00:39

The City of London financial district is seen from Primrose Hill as high air pollution obscures the skyline over London April 10, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] A court in the United Kingdom has ruled that dirty air contributed to the death of a 9-year-old girl in London, marking the first time a person in Britain has had air pollution listed as part of the cause of death. Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived just 25 meters from one of the capital's busiest roads in southeast London, died in February 2013 after suffering an asthma attack. During the 10-day inquest, the court was told she had been admitted to hospital with severe breathing difficulties 27 times in the previous three years. Delivering the verdict on Wednesday, assistant coroner Philip Barlow said Ella had been exposed to nitrogen dioxide pollution in excess of World Health Organization and European Union guidelines. "My conclusion is air pollution made a material contribution to Ella's death," he said. He added: "The whole of Ella's life was lived in close proximity to highly polluting roads. The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions." He added that inaction by authorities to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide, and a lack of information given to her mother, both "possibly contributed to her death". The coroner said children and those with asthma were particularly at risk and that air pollution both induced and exacerbated Ella's particular form of severe asthma. An earlier inquest into Ella's death, in 2014, concluded that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure. This was quashed by the High Court after new evidence showed dangerous levels of air pollution close to the girl's home. The new inquest heard from health, transport and air quality experts, Ella's family, government departments, the mayor of London and the borough of Lewisham where she lived. London mayor Sadiq Khan said the coroner's conclusion demonstrated that action was needed and called pollution a "public health crisis". He said: "Today must be a turning point so that other families do not have to suffer the same heartbreak as Ella's family. Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, especially for our children, and the inquest underlined yet again the importance of pushing ahead with bold policies such as expanding the ultra low emission zone to inner London."