Wednesday, October 20

The trial for the death of a girl due to environmental pollution that could make history


A 9-year-old girl who died after suffering an asthma attack has become the first person in the UK to have the cause of death classified as environmental pollution.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lived in Lewisham, near South Circular Road – the southern section of the congested ring road in the London metropolitan area. died in 2013.

Southwark Court of Inquiry – the district where the girl lived – he found that environmental pollution “Materially contributed” to Ella’s death.

Professor Gavin Shaddick, a government adviser on pollution issues, called it “a landmark failure.”

At the end of the 2-week inquest, Coroner Philip Barlow stated that She had been exposed to “excessive” levels of contamination.

In the 3 years before her death, the little girl suffered multiple attacks and had to be admitted to the hospital 27 times.

In reading the ruling, Barlow said that Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels near Ella’s home exceeded guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union.

“There was a recognized failure to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels, which possibly contributed to his death,” he added.

“There was also a paucity of information given to Ella’s mother that possibly contributed to her death.”

After a reading that lasted almost an hour, the coroner said: “I conclude that She died asthma, to which their exposure to excessive air pollution contributed ”.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah off the A205 ring road in southeast London
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said she did not know how dangerous pollution levels were before her daughter’s death. (Photo: BBC)

“We got the justice we so deserved,” declared Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah.

“But this is for other children too, as we continue to walk through our city with high levels of air pollution.”

Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said she was “shocked” by what “Decisive and complete” which were the conclusions.

Life “on the edge of a precipice”

She was taken to a hospital for the first time in 2010 after a coughing fit, the mother told the investigative court.

When she was 6 years old, the girl had to be put into a medically induced coma for three days to stabilize her condition.

By the summer of 2012, her breathing problems were classified as a disabilitydad and her mother described how many times she had to carry her from one side to the other.

“I think people have to understand that when Ella was rushed to the hospital, most of the time she could hardly even breathe,” she told the investigative court.

“It was an emergency, a cardiac arrest.”

She died in the early hours of February 15, 2013, after from a severe asthma attack“.

She Kissi-Debrah at St Thomas' Hospital in London
Ella’s breathing problems were classified as a disability. (Photo: Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah)

A 2018 report found that illegal pollution levels, detected at a monitoring station 1.5 km away from Ella’s home, contributed to her fatal asthma attack.

The report’s author, Professor Stephen Holgate, said the girl had lived “on the edge of a cliff” in the months before her death.

The court of inquiry heard how Ella’s family no andraware of the risks raised by air pollution.


BBC environmental expert analysis, Roger Harrabin

This is a historic failure.

Commonly, experts refer to air pollution as “associated” with premature deaths because they cannot be sure that the death of a particular individual was caused totally or in part by polluted air.

This case clings in part Ella’s premature death to the air she breathed.

It will heat up the debate on social justice in the UK.

The poorest tend to suffer from the worst air quality, while – nationally – the wealthy tend to drive their cars longer distances.

The activists seek to now take urgent measures, including the expansion of clean air zones in London to the periphery of the metropolitan area and the better adaptation of the country’s streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

But there are countless sources of pollution. Gas heaters, construction equipment, paint, and brake and tire dust are among those contributing to the problem.

Ultimately, it will not be possible to clean the air completely in some of the major cities in the UK.


Before the investigation’s conclusions, Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote to Adoo-Kissi-Debrah calling her “hero”.

The former California governor, a longtime advocate for improving clean air standards, thanked him for “betraying air pollution for the killer that it is.”

“Historical failure”

Professor Shaddick, who heads the department of scientific data at the University of Exeter, said he hoped the court ruling “will make it easier in the future to improve the air we breathe.”

“It is regrettable that this case was needed to achieve this,” he added.

Sadiq Khan, who as Mayor of London was mentioned in court as an interested party, called the result “a historic moment.”

“Today must be a inflection point so that other families do not have to suffer the same disappointment as Ella’s family ”, he declared.

“Ministers and former mayors have reacted too slowly in the past, but now they will have to learn the lessons of the ruling of the investigative tribunal.”

The A205 South Circular Ring Road
The South Circular Road, near where Ella lived, is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the British capital. (Photo: PA Media)

Sarah Woolnough, executive director of Asma UK and the British Lung Foundation, urged the government to immediately delineate a public health plan to protect against “toxic air”.

“Our hearts go out to Ella’s family who fought tirelessly to achieve today’s historic result,” said Woolnough.

“Today’s verdict sets a precedent for a seismic shift in the pace and scope at which the government, local authorities and doctors must collaborate to deal with the health crisis caused by the country’s air pollution.”

“Our thoughts continue to be with Ella’s family and friends,” a government spokesman said in response to the ruling.

“We are developing a £ 3.8 billion ($ 5.167 million) plan to clean up transport and reduce NO2 pollution and advance the protection of communities from air pollution,” he said.

Lewisham Mayor Damine Egan acknowledged that Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s cleaner air campaign had had a “Huge impact”.

“We hope that today’s ruling is the necessary evidence to generate a lasting change, which finally ensures a national commitment to attack air pollution in a meaningful way,” he concluded.


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