A mother of a girl who became the first person in the UK to have air pollution recognised as a cause of her death has called on the prime minister to commit to tougher steps to save lives from Britain’s smog.
Nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died following a severe asthma attack in 2013.
A landmark inquest in December found that pollution from traffic made a “material contribution” to her death, and a coroner’s report released in April said the UK must set stricter air quality limits to prevent similar deaths in the future.
In a letter sent today, her mother Rosamund called on Boris Johnson to adopt the coroner’s recommendation of setting a legal target for particulate air pollution that is in step with guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation.
She also urged Mr Johnson to ensure that this commitment is included in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May.
“While my child died, there are many out there who need to be saved, and can be, by you introducing measures to tackle air pollution via government legislation,” the letter reads.
“I do hope that you will be able to find the time to meet with me before the Queen’s Speech to reassure me of your commitment to tackling the public health emergency that is air pollution and to learn the lessons from Ella’s death.”
Air pollution is responsible for between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths each year in the UK – and some studies suggest that the true figure could be even higher.
The legal limit for fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) in the UK is currently two and a half times as high as that recommended by experts at the WHO.
In an interview with The Independent published in April, Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah urged the government to take the coroner’s recommendation for tougher air pollution limits “incredibly seriously”.
“If nothing changes, then there are going to be families that go through what we’ve gone through,” she said.
“Children are continuing to die, it is a very difficult thing to talk about. Should anyone die from asthma in 2021? The answer is no.”
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 pollution and going further in protecting communities from air pollution, particularly PM2.5 which is especially harmful to human health.
“Through our landmark Environment Bill, we are also setting ambitious new air quality targets, including a duty to set a target on fine particulate matter and we will consider WHO guidelines as part of this.
“We will carefully consider the recommendations in the coroner’s report and respond in due course.”
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