Boris Johnson urged to set tougher legal pollution targets after death of young girl

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

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being urged to put tougher legal pollution targets into place after the death of a schoolgirl who was exposed to toxic air.

Philip Barlow, assistant coroner at Inner South London, ruled in a second inquest last year that air pollution contributed to the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, aged 9, from an asthma attack.

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Ella was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of death on their death certificate, following the inquest ruling by Mr Barlow.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to put tougher legal pollution targets into place after the death of a schoolgirl who was exposed to toxic air (Photo: Shutterstock)

The nine-year-old lived 25 metres from the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London, which is one of the city’s busiest roads.

Ella died in February 2013, after numerous seizures and almost 30 visits to hospital over the previous three years.

In a report to prevent future deaths, Mr Barlow said legally binding targets based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) would reduce the number of deaths in the UK from air pollution, and that the Government should take action in order to address the issue.

The assistant coroner also said that there is currently low public awareness of the sources of information about national and local pollution levels, and that greater awareness regarding this would help people to reduce their personal exposure to air pollution.

The adverse effects of air pollution on people’s health are not being communicated in a sufficient manner to patients and their carers by medical professionals, Mr Barlow also said.

Addressing the report, Ella’s mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, said: “I can’t stress enough to the Prime Minister, if one has to, to please put this into law now, to stop people from dying.”

In response to the coroner’s prevention of future deaths report, a Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts continue to be with Ella’s family and friends.

“We are delivering a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) pollution and going further in protecting communities from air pollution, particularly PM2.5 (particulate matter), which is especially harmful to human health.

“Through our landmark Environment Bill, we are also setting ambitious new air quality targets, with a focus on reducing public health impacts.

“We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and respond in due course. ”

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