The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died after an asthma attack today said ‘we got the justice she deserved’ after a coroner ruled that London’s air pollution contributed to her death.
Ella Kissi-Debrah is believed to be the first person in UK history to have air pollution recorded on their death certificate, following today’s ruling by a coroner at the second inquest into her death.
She died in February 2013, having endured numerous seizures and made almost 30 hospital visits over the previous three years. Ella lived 25 yards from the South Circular Road in Lewisham – one of the capital’s most congested roads.
A previous inquest ruling from 2014, which concluded Ella died of acute respiratory failure, was quashed by the High Court following new evidence from an air monitoring station which showed pollution ‘consistently’ exceeded legal limits’.
Speaking after the inquest ruling today, Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah said: ‘Yes, this was about my daughter, getting air pollution on the death certificate which we finally have, and we’ve got the justice for her which she so deserved.
‘But also it’s about other children still as we walk around our city of high levels of air pollution. There needs to be a whole education about air pollution and exposure to air pollution.’
Today, Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, announced proposed new legislation, dubbed ‘Ella’s Law’, which the campaign group had drafted with the help of lawyers.
He said: ‘We need new duties and powers for the Government, Metro Mayors and local authorities to work together to reduce air pollution from traffic and buildings and take action when air pollution exceeds World Health Organisation guidelines.’
Ms Kissi-Debrah backed the demand, adding: ‘Her legacy would be to bring in a new Clean Air Act and for governments – I’m not just talking about the UK Government – governments around the world to take this matter seriously.’
Assistant coroner Philip Barlow said Ella’s mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, had not been given information which could have led to her take steps which ‘might’ have prevented her daughter’s death.
Mr Barlow said: ‘Ella’s mother was not given information about the health risks of air pollution and its potential to exacerbate asthma. If she had been given this information she would have taken steps which might have prevented Ella’s death.’
David Edwards, Lewisham Council’s head of public health and air quality, admitted pollution levels were a ‘public health emergency’ at the time of Ella’s death.
Assistant coroner Philip Barlow gave his findings at Southwark Coroner’s Court after a two-week inquest.
A previous inquest ruling from 2014, which concluded Ella died of acute respiratory failure, was quashed by the High Court following new evidence about the dangerous levels of air pollution close to her home.