The coroner who declared that young Londoner Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death was caused by exposure to air pollution says that adopting tighter legal limits on particulate concentrations would reduce the death toll from the pollutant.
Ella died of a rare and extreme form of asthma in 2013 at the age of nine, having been hospitalised dozens of times beforehand. Following a long campaign, her death certificate was revised earlier this year to include air pollution as a factor. It was the first time such a ruling had been made, though epidemiologists have long concluded that dirty air kills tens of thousands of people per year in the UK alone and millions around the world.
“The national limits for particulate matter are set at a level far higher” than guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO), Philip Barlow, assistant coroner for inner South London, wrote in a ‘prevention of future deaths’ report released today.
“The evidence at the inquest was that there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements. Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK,” Barlow added.
The government at first said that the Environment Bill would set the recommendations in law directly, then reversed course and said that a new target would be set by October 2022. The whole of the capital breaches the WHO guideline level of ten micrograms per cubic metre, as do many other towns and cities across the UK.
ENDS, 21 April 2021