The little girl who died of pollution

The little girl who died of pollution

Historical verdict in Great Britain: for the first time, air pollution was found to be a contributing factor in the death of a person. This is Ella Kissi- Debrah, who died at the age of nine in 2013 during the latest in a long series of episodes of respiratory failure.

Smog killer in London

Acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and exposure to air pollution . These are the causes that led little Ella Kissi-Debrah to death, according to the doctor interviewed during the trial to establish the causes and concurrence of guilt in her death.

It is the first time that smog has appeared among the main culprits of a death in a UK verdict.

The tragic death of Ella

She was nine when she died in 2013 following an acute asthma attack. Since then, her family has taken legal steps to publicly establish what the causes of death actually were . 

In a sentence dated 2014 – later annulled by the High Court due to the emergence of new evidence on the dangerous levels of air pollution that were recorded near Ella’s home – the responsibility was attributed solely to acute respiratory failure, which occurred following numerous epileptic seizures and dozens of trips to the hospital.

Now, after years of investigations and weeks of court hearings, the sentence has been definitively changed: the little girl died after an asthma attack, but the smog played a decisive role in the worsening of her condition .

According to what was declared by the public official in charge, the lethal episode was triggered by a  constant and continuous exposure to high levels of pollutants in the air around Ella’s house.

In fact, the little girl lived with her family, of African descent, in the South-East suburbs of London, a few meters from the South Circular , a very busy and regularly congested road.

Overexposure to traffic emissions, the words of the coroner

” She died of asthma aggravated by exposure to excessive air pollution ,” said the deputy coroner for the London Borough of Southwark Philip Barlow , called to provide his decisive opinion on the matter.

The deputy coroner said the girl  living in a heavily trafficked and smog-ridden area of ​​London – was exposed to nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines . .

He further stated that the failure to reduce pollution levels to authorized limits, as well as the fact that the mother was not provided with information on the potential aggravating consequences of air pollution on asthma , may have contributed to the death of the child.

“ My conclusion ,” Barlow said, “ is thatair pollution was a material contribution to Ella’s death . “

A public health emergency

The health effects of smog have been known for many years, denounced by periodic reports relating to air quality . It is the weakest categories – children, the elderly, asthmatics – who are most at risk and pay the highest price.

The ruling reached in the Kissi-Debrah case – the first of its kind in the United Kingdom – is therefore particularly important because, in addition to shedding light on a story calling for justice, it could increase the pressure on the government to tackle the issue of illegal levels. of smog . 

In this regard, the family’s lawyers took the opportunity to state that air pollution represents a public health emergency. and that it had to be officially registered as a cause of death to hope that programs to combat toxic air become a national priority

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