By Larissa Lockwood, Director of Clean Air, 3 min read
Today, a coroner has made legal history after a two week inquiry, by ruling that air pollution was a cause of the death of nine-year-old, Ella Kissi-Debrah. The verdict given by Philip Barlow, inner south London coroner said Ella’s death in February 2013 had been caused by severe asthma secondary to air pollution exposure, and acute respiratory failure. This means air pollution has been listed as a cause of death for the first time in the UK.
First and foremost, we are deeply relieved that justice for Ella has prevailed today. We are beyond grateful to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah for showing such bravery and strength over such a difficult few weeks. Despite the unfathomable circumstances, Rosamund has continued to push air quality issues forward and we want to thank her for all her relentless campaigning which undoubtedly will impact many children’s lives for the better.
This is a historic and a ground breaking decision which shows the devastating impacts of air pollution and the urgent need to clean up the air we breathe. We hope this verdict will set a new precedent, putting air pollution higher on the agenda of our decision makers.
We need legal limits and targets that are fully aligned with World Health Organization’s recommendations, and we need plans in place to meet them. It has clearly not worked to have one department – Defra – being solely responsible for tackling air pollution. The Department of Education and the Department of Health have a clear role to play and all of government needs to step up and make sure our children have healthy air to breathe. We can end this crisis if we act together.