Nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah of southeast London is believed to be the first person to have "air pollution" listed as a cause of death on a landmark coroner's ruling. In February 2013, Kissi-Debrah died in a local hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. Prior to her death, she had been admitted to the hospital several times because her severe asthma caused episodes of cardiac and respiratory arrest. After seven years, a coroner has officially listed the young girl's death as acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure. The coroner's conclusion added that the nine-year-old "died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution."
In the aftermath, organizations like Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have identified Kissi-Debrah to be the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Making matters worse, assistant coroner Phillip Barlow suggested that Kissi-Debrah's mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, was not provided with sufficient information about pollution and asthma. As a result, the young girl's mother was unable to offer her child the best care possible.
"Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbation of her asthma," Barlow said in Southwark Coroner's Court
"During the course of her illness between 2010 and 2013 she was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines."
Adding on, Barlow noted that Kissi-Debrah was primarily exposed to nitrogen dioxide through car emissions. The assistant coroner claimed that London had failed to reduce the level of nitrogen dioxide to within the limits set by EU and domestic law. Moving forward, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah hopes that her daughter's death with lead to new clean air policies.
"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," she said.
"We've got the justice for her which she so deserved."
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