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Girl's death first to be linked directly to air pollution

AIR POLLUTION: Nine-year-old Ella's asthma was exacerbated by high levels of dangerous pollutants (Image: The Ella Roberta Family Foundation)

THE DEATH of a young girl is the first to be linked directly to illegal levels of air pollution.

Ella Kissi-Debrah died after three years of seizures and 27 visits to hospital for asthma attacks.

The nine-year-old, who died in February 2013, lived 25 metres from London’s South Circular Road – known for its high levels of pollution.

An expert involved in a report into her death found that there was a “striking association” between the times that Ella was admitted to hospital because of a health emergency and spikes in levels of nitrogen dioxide and PM10s – some of the most noxious pollutants – near her home.

Professor Stephen Holgate, an expert on asthma and air pollution, said that there was a “real prospect that without unlawful levels of air pollution, Ella would not have died”, according to the BBC.

Holgate’s report also stated that: “Unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the cause and seriousness of Ella's asthma in a way that greatly compromised her quality of life and was causative of her fatal asthma attack.”

Evidence from an air pollution monitoring station in Catford used by the government, one mile from Ella’s home, and another three miles from her home were used in the report to determine the factors that contributed to her death.

Ella died following one of the “worst air pollution episodes in her locality”, the report found.

As a result of the findings and Holgate’s recommendation that Ella’s death should be recorded as acute respiratory failure and severe asthma secondary to air pollution exposure, her family have launched a legal bid to overturn the inquest conclusion of her cause of death.

An inquest into Ella’s death recorded her death a result of acute respiratory failure following years of asthma-related emergencies and hospital admissions.

Speaking to the BBC, Ella’s mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, said she resuscitated Ella approxiamately 30 times while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said: "I need to find out for myself why she died and what the causes are.

"I need this for my other children, in order to protect their health.

"I also believe there is a public interest in examining her death because if this direct link were made then the health of our children would have to be prioritised over other considerations including the convenience of drivers."

Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who has young twin sons, one of whom has asthma, said she believes he is also affected by the levels of air pollution.

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