A British court has decided that a nine-year-old girl’s death was caused by air pollution, a judgment which could have far-reaching consequences for plans against air pollution.
Ella Kissi-Debrah died on 15 February 2013, of an asthma attack. She lived in the southeast of London, in Lewisham, just 25 metres from the busy South Circular Road, where levels of nitrogen dioxide from traffic constantly exceeded the annual legal level of 40 µg/m3 between 2006 and 2010.
Research suggest that air pollution caused by traffic is responsible for 4 million new cases of asthma in children a year globally. Ella Kiss-Debrah’s case is the first time a British court links a death case to pollution.
Ella’s initial cause of death was ‘acute respiratory failure’, but her mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, did not reconcile herself to the situation and asked for an autopsy. She insisted on having her daughter’s death officially recognised as caused by air pollution.
The pathologist in the case, Philip Barlow, discovered that Ella had been exposed to ‘extreme’ amounts of particles and nitrogen dioxide, De Morgen reports.
Research even indicated that she would probably still have lived if air pollution in her surroundings would not have exceeded the international, European, and World Health Organization standards.
Currently, UK threshold limits for particles are two and a half times higher than the WHO recommendations.
During the three years before she died, Ella had been taken to hospital 27 times, BBC News reports.
The official judgment now is that Ella died of asthma and that pollution played an important part in the girl’s death.
Ella’s mother is relieved “to have the justice the girl deserved,” and her fight for justice may help prevent other air pollution deaths.
Every year, between 28 000 and 36 000 people die in the UK due to toxic air pollution.
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Ella’s case is a historic judgment, and paves the way for British individuals and organizations fighting against air pollution the hope that they will soon see an emergency plan against air pollution.