New inquest victory into death of Lewisham girl linked to air pollution

Ella and her mother Rosmund

Ella and her mother Rosmund Pic: Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah

A new inquest will be held into the death of a nine-year-old girl from Lewisham who suffered a fatal asthma attack believed to be linked to air pollution.

Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham, died in February 2013 following three years of seizures and asthma attacks.

The cause of death was originally listed as acute respiratory failure as a result of a severe asthma attack, but new evidence suggests air pollution may be behind these attacks.

Her mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, applied to the court for a new inquest after the 2018 report by Professor Stephen Holgate found air pollution levels at the Catford monitoring station, one mile from Ella’s home, “consistently” exceeded lawful EU limits over the three years prior to her death.

High Court judges ruled on Thursday that the results of the 2014 inquest will be disregarded and a new hearing held.

After the ruling Kissi-Debrah said: “I am absolutely delighted by today’s ruling and look forward to finally getting the truth about Ella’s death.”

If the inquest supports the new evidence, Ella may become the first person in the UK for whom air pollution is listed as the cause of death.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC said that the new evidence shows an “arguable failure” by the state in its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.

Kissi-Debrah echoed this sentiment, saying that if air pollution did cause her daughters death then the government would be forced to take notice of this hidden killer.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:  “Air pollution is a killer in London and across the UK – but here in the capital we are delivering bold action to address this toxic crisis that causes asthma, cancer and dementia and thousands of premature deaths.”

This development comes at a contentious time for Parliament who have just declared an official state of climate emergency.

Despite numerous government initiatives to combat air pollution, including “pollution tax” for driving in the capital, closing roads outside schools during pick up and drop off, and making Lewisham an ‘ultra-low emissions zone’ from 2021, air pollution remains a major concern for Londoners.

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