EiD writes regularly about the impact of air pollution. Jasmine Andersson writes on the I newsletter website about the efforts of one mother to have a new inquest to determine whether air pollution caused the death of her nine-year-old daughter. It will be important to follow future developments in the inquest.
Death of nine-year-old girl could become first case where the cause of death is listed as air pollution
A mother has won the right to a fresh inquest over whether air pollution caused the death of her nine-year-old daughter.
Ella Kissi-Debrah died in February 2013 after enduring a series of health complications that her mother believes were due the high level of pollution in their local area in Lewisham, London.
Seizures match air pollution spikes
The nine-year-old and her family lived on the South Circular road, which is considered to be a pollution hotspot, BBC News reports.
She caught a chest infection in 2010, her mother said, and after that her health never fully recovered.
Her lung collapsed in 2011, and by 2013, she was experiencing seizures.
An inquest in Southwark coroner’s court ruled that Miss Kissi-Debrah’s death was caused by asthma and acute respiratory failure.
The Attorney General has agreed to reopen the inquest into Miss Kissi-Debrah’s death after a researcher found evidence that the child’s ill health had strikingly similar patterns to spikes in pollution levels in the area.
Her last fatal seizure happened during one of these spikes.
The Attorney General said: “I have received several representations about Ella’s case, and acknowledge the wider interest that has been taken in it.
“However, I must assess the application based only on the facts of the case, and on whether there is enough new evidence available to merit reopening the inquest process.
“I have concluded that there is new evidence which may alter the substantial truth of Ella’s death.
“I am therefore able to give my permission for an application to the High Court to request a new inquest, based on the evidential test being met.”
‘Children are dying as a result of the air we breathe’
Opening a new inquest could pave the way for a landmark case in the UK.
Air pollution has never been recorded as the cause of death on a person’s death certificate in Britain.
Kissi-Debrah has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for representation at the high court hearing to let “those in power know that children are dying as a result of the air that we breathe.”
“I need to raise £25,000 to help me fund some of the legal costs involved in securing a new inquest into Ella’s death,” she wrote on the crowdjustice page.
“This would go a long way to helping me uncover the real reasons that led to Ella’s death, and prevent any other child suffering the same fate.
“Your support could mean the difference between life and death for other children and adults living in our polluted cities,” she added.
Kissi-Debrah said: “Words cannot express how happy I am that the attorney general has taken this decision, and I would like to thank him for reaching his conclusion.
“Nothing will bring my beautiful, bright, bubbly child back, but now at least I may get answers about how she died and whether it was air pollution which snatched her away from us,” she added.
A toxic emergency
Around 9,000 Londoners die prematurely because of polluted air, according to the Mayor’s Office, the Evening Standard reports.
Sadiq Khan said that London’s air has become “a toxic emergency.”
“The evidence is now incontrovertible: the harmful quality of London’s air has become a public health emergency,” said Mr Khan.
“There’s no other way of framing it.
“Thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely in our city every single year as a direct consequence of our filthy, toxic air,” he added.