A little girl’s death from air pollution must lead to cleaner air to protect vulnerable groups including young people and workers, say campaigners.
Clean air plans are not happening fast enough, said the mother of Ella, a 9-year-old girl who has become the first person in the UK to have air pollution named as the direct cause of her death.
Deputy Coroner Phillip Barlow ruled after the two-week inquest, on Friday 18 December, that “air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbation of her asthma.”
He concluded: “Ella died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution.”
Ella lived just 25m from the South Circular in South London, and she died in February 2013.
Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who has campaigned for years for the inquest into her daughter’s death, said: “You think about the amount of change it can bring to so many children. I thought about the children all around the world who this might help, because I receive letters from people as far away as India about the problems they face with air pollution.
She added: “We’ve got the justice for Ella which she so deserved, but there are still illegal levels of air pollution now, as we speak, so this matter is far from over. What I would like to see happen as a result of this inquest is better education about air pollution and for more serious steps to reduce pollution to safe levels.
"We talk about working toward cleaner air in eighteen months or several years’ time, but that’s not fast enough. I would like to see a public awareness campaign undertaken. There needs to be clear and concise information, so people can understand it.”
The Trade Union Clear Air Network (TUCAN) said that commuters, office and shop workers, and people working on a construction project, are all groups of workers who are more vulnerable to toxic air. “The ways in which air pollution can be an issue at your job have not been well discussed,” said Graham Peterson.
“The result of the inquest shows in an all too tragic way what we and many others have been saying for far too many years – the polluted air we have to breathe can and does kill and government must act to ensure the pollutants are reduced and removed. The Government must also focus on those employers and industries whose operations contribute to the polluted air of local communities and their own workforce.”
The British Safety Council, which campaigns for clean air for outdoor workers under its Time to Breathe campaign, responded with a call on the government to adopt more ambitious targets on air pollution levels.
“The British Safety Council urges the Government to fulfil its obligation to protect the right to breathe clean air. It can take positive action by enshrining into UK law, the World Health Organisation (WHO) exposure limits for the main air pollutants of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone,” said a statement.
Mike Robinson, the British Safety Council’s Chief Executive, commented: “We are asking the Government to step up to its responsibilities for public health. The Environment Bill states that air quality is a priority, but this must be backed up with concrete policies and actions to ensure cleaner air in our cities and a healthier outdoor workforce.”
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