Coroner calls for law change after air pollution causes death of young girl

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Four months after an inquest concluded that air pollution was the cause of death for six-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a coroner has called on the UK government to change air pollution law.   

Coroner Phillip Barlow, who led the original inquest into Ella’s death in December 2020, has called for national pollution limits to be reduced. He says there is ‘no safe level of particulate matter’ in the air.   

WHO guidelines on air pollution   

According to Phillip Barlow, to prevent further deaths of a similar nature, the UK government should reduce existing legally binding targets for particulate matter pollution to bring them in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.  

Ella was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death on their death certificate.   

The inquest into Ella’s death also found levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) near her home exceeded WHO and EU guidelines.  

In his report, Phillip Barlow called for more information about air pollution and its impact to be made available to the public.   

‘Children are dying unnecessarily’  

Responding to the report, Ella’s mother Rosamund Adoo- Kissi-Debrah, asked the government to listen to the recommendations laid out by the coroner. She warned that “children are dying unnecessarily because the government is not doing enough to combat air pollution”.   

“As the parent of a child suffering from severe asthma, I should have been given this information, but this did not happen,” Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said.  

“Because of a lack of information, I did not take the steps to reduce Ella’s exposure to air pollution that might have saved her life. I will always live with this regret. It is not too late for other children.”  

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