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Media reaction: 21 April 2021
In December 2020, the Southwark Coroner's Court confirmed that the UK’s illegal levels of air pollution contributed to the death of 9-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013. Today, the Coroner issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report following the inquest.
Katie Nield, lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said: “The Coroner’s report highlights that air pollution is still putting people’s lives at risk in the UK – eight years after Ella’s death and over a decade after legal limits should have been met.
“Pollution is often touted as an ‘invisible killer’ but for a long time public bodies have been well aware of where harmful emissions are coming from and the impacts they are having on people’s health. All the while, solutions have been at their fingertips: a network of Clean Air Zones would quickly remove the most polluting vehicles from our roads. The coroner himself has highlighted that legally binding targets based on stricter WHO guideline levels for harmful particulate matter would prevent future deaths.
“Toxic air is clearly not going to disappear on its own. The government needs to get its act together and explain what more it is going to do prevent lives like Ella’s being cut short.”
Air pollution is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the biggest environmental health risk in the world. It also tops the list of environment health hazards in the UK and is estimated to cause the equivalent of up to 40,000 early deaths a year.
Air pollution also reduces people’s quality of life – studies have linked it to premature births, cancer, asthma, COPD, heart disease and strokes, and there is increasing evidence on potential links to dementia and infertility.
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has become the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Ella, who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London, died in 2013, when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London. Southwark Coroner's Court found that air pollution "made a material contribution" to Ella's death.
In March 2020, an EU court ruled that the UK has “systematically and persistently” exceeded legal limits for dangerous nitrogen dioxide since 2010.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.