Wednesday 16 December 2020 10:44 PM UTC
LONDON Dec 16: In a British legal first on Wednesday, a coroner ruled that air pollution contributed to the death of a nine-year-old girl with severe asthma who lived by a busy road.
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died in February 2013 after a serious asthma attack. In the previous three years, she had been taken to hospital nearly 30 times with breathing difficulties.
The young girl lived in southeast London just 30 metres (yards) from a major ringroad in the capital which is often clogged with heavy traffic.
“Air pollution made a material contribution to Ella’s death,” assistant coroner Philip Barlow said, in the first case to have poor air quality recorded as a factor on a death certificate.
“She was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide in excess of World Health Organization guidelines. The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions.”
He said it was also important to record a “recognised failure” to reduce those NO2 levels to within UK and EU limits, “which possibly contributed to her death”.
Information was not provided to her mother, Rosamund, that may have prompted her to take action that might have prevented the girl’s death, he added.
A first inquest in 2014 determined that Ella died of acute respiratory failure. But the ruling was overturned and a new hearing ordered after a review of the case.
Air pollution expert Stephen Holgate found a “striking link” between spikes in NO2 and harmful particulate matter and the occasions that she was taken to hospital for treatment.
He told the inquest she was “living on a knife edge” because of her surroundings and the air quality in her neighbourhood, which exacerbated her condition.
Winter air pollution worsened her asthma in the months leading up to her death, added Holgate, a professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton.
“This landmark ruling at last recognises the deadly impact of air pollution,” said the co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas.
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