Yes, Air Pollution Killed 9-Year-Old Ella Kissi Debrah — Inquest’s Conclusion

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Originally published on Transport & Environment.
By Sam Hargreaves

The landmark inquest into the tragic death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah today confirmed that air pollution was a material factor in causing and worsening the fatal asthma attacks she suffered, leading to her death. Toxic air leads to an estimated 40,000 deaths in the UK every year, but this is the first time it has been named as a cause on a death certificate. Green group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the ruling shows Ella’s death was avoidable if governments had put the needs of vulnerable children first. It called for a new Clean Air Act to make air safe to breathe.

Greg Archer, UK director at T&E and expert to the inquest, said: “Ella’s tragic death could have been avoided if irresponsible governments had not put the needs of the car industry and diesel car drivers before vulnerable children. We urgently need a new Clean Air Act, Ella’s Law, to bring down emissions of air pollutants and make air safe to breathe.”

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier from Pexels

Ella died in 2013, three years after UK and EU air pollution limits — designed to protect vulnerable people — should have been met. Evidence presented to the inquest showed the UK government knew eight years before her death that it would miss legally-binding air pollution limits due to emissions from diesel vehicles. Today, levels of air pollution in cities in Britain and across Europe remain above the safe standards that should have been met in 2010, continuing to put vulnerable children like Ella at risk.

Greg Archer concluded: “This inquest is a milestone in the battle for clean air and would not have happened without the courageous determination of Ella’s family. In the seven years since Ella died, nearly a quarter of a million other UK families have suffered tragedy as a result of vulnerable loved-ones breathing toxic air — four times more than those killed by Covid this year. In modern Britain, this is inexcusable and preventable.”

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