The mother of a schoolgirl who died after exposure to air pollution has written to Boris Johnson urging him to commit to action on toxic air in next week’s Queen’s Speech.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s daughter Ella was nine-years-old when she suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013, and a second inquest last year ruled that exposure to excessive air pollution had contributed to her death.
Ella lived 25 metres from the busy South Circular in Lewisham, London, and was exposed to illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter above World Health Organisation guidelines, mostly due to traffic fumes.
Last month, the coroner in her inquest published a prevention of future deaths report calling for legally binding targets for particulate matter in line with the WHO guidelines, to reduce deaths from air pollution.
Assistant coroner Philip Barlow also recommended improvements in public information on air pollution levels so people could reduce their exposure, and education and training for medical and nursing staff on the issue.
Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has written to the Prime Minister urging him to meet with her before the Queen’s Speech – which will set out the Government’s new legislative agenda – to discuss the lessons to be learned from Ella’s death.
She also called on him to commit to adopt the coroner’s recommendations to prevent future deaths, and ensure next Tuesday’s speech contained a commitment to do so.
And she urged Mr Johnson to work with her on improvements in the Environment Bill to better focus on protecting public health.
She wrote: “The inquest demonstrated to me that successive governments have not prioritised health in terms of policies to tackle air pollution.
“Insufficient regard has been given to the public health emergency and this continues to cost lives.
“I am adamant that lessons will be learned from Ella’s death and that other families are spared the heartache that my family and I have suffered. This is a life and death issue.”
She said she regularly received letters from parents across the UK telling her that air pollution was exacerbating their child’s health problems.
“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,” she told the Prime Minister.
Air pollution, caused by pollutants including particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from sources such as traffic fumes, contributes to tens of thousands of early deaths a year.
It can create a catalogue of health problems: it triggers strokes, heart and asthma attacks, causes cancer and can stunt lung growth in children, has been linked to premature births, damage to children’s learning and dementia.
Ahead of the UN Cop26 climate talks taking place in the UK in November, Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said she was heartened to hear it was one of the Government’s single biggest priorities.
She said she was committed to working with the Prime Minister to ensure the UK successfully tackled the “massive job”, and that lessons from her daughter’s death were learned.
Given the speech was taking place on May 11, she warned that time was very short.
A Government spokesperson said they had received Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s letter and would respond in due course.
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