The mum of a nine-year-old girl killed by air pollution says her daughter’s life was “in vain” if no action is taken.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s daughter Ella died in February 2013, following a fatal asthma attack, having endured constant seizures and 28 hospital visits in the three years before.
A first inquest ruling from 2014, which concluded she died of acute respiratory failure, was quashed by the High Court following new evidence about the dangerous levels of air pollution close to her home – 25 metres South Circular Road in Lewisham, southeast London – one of the capital’s busiest roads.
Assistant Southwark coroner Philip Barlow’s Prevention of Future Death report stated legally binding targets for particulate matter pollution should be looked at by the government to bring the UK in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
Rosamund has now urged Boris Johnson to commit the coroner’s recommendations to law.
Rosamund said in a press conference today: “My initial response (to the report) is relief that it tackles the main issues at hand.
“The coroner…has made it incredibly clear that unless his recommendations are implemented then people will continue to die.
“We need to get (his recommendations) into the environment bill, the action needs to be now.
“The 28 times Ella was in hospital – people should not think it was just 28 attacks.
“She probably had hundreds, the traumatic impact of that I cannot stress enough.
“It was ongoing all the time and she got to the point of no return.
“I cannot stress enough to the Prime Minister to please put this into law now to stop people dying.
“If (the UK fails to adopt WHO guidelines) it would make me feel as if Ella’s life and all this fighting has been in vain.
“I cannot contemplate it, it would mean people continue to die.
“It needs to happen some way, somehow.”
The UK is set to hold the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Rosamund added: “It would be an embarrassment – we’re hosting COP26 and (potentially) asking other countries to take action when we cannot do it ourselves.”
Rosamund said it had been a “long journey” since she asked the public to support her and when she and her legal team forced a second inquest.
Fighting back tears, she said: “For all she suffered, she has done good.
“Ella suffered horrendously and many people in hospitals tried to keep her alive but couldn’t manage it.
“I feel we have achieved what we started out to achieve.
“I said if Ella wins then everyone wins, and she’s won for today. It now takes those in charge to implement things.
“I’m incredibly proud of her and how she fought so hard.
“If she was here today she’d be incredibly proud that she’d made history already in December and I hope she continues to make history.
“I hope people will look at her life and know how precious life is.
“It’s something I learn to live with all the time – her brutal death.
Trying to keep her alive, I’m not a doctor. I was lucky that all the times I resuscitated her she came around.
“Life can be very short and very cruel and I want all of us today to take a moment to thank her because it’s through her dying that we’re here today.
“She will always be very precious to us. She wanted her siblings not to forget her and hopefully everyone will remember her.
“Going forward, people need to think about the vulnerable people in our society.”
Mr Barlow’s report also said there is low public awareness of sources of information about national and local pollution levels and greater awareness would help people reduce their exposure to air pollution.
Adverse effects of air pollution on health are also not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical and nursing professionals, he added.
At the inquest into her death Mr Barlow said Ella’s mum had not been given information “about the health risks of air pollution and its potential to exacerbate asthma”.
“If she had been given this information, she would have taken steps which might have prevented Ella’s death,” he said.
He added in his report: “During the course of the inquest the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern.
“In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken. In the circumstances it is my statutory duty to report to you.”
A Prevention of Future Deaths report is mandatory when a coroner believes action should be taken to reduce the risk of further death.
Prof Sir Stephen Holgate said yesterday: “This comes down to one thing –
and that thing is that fossil fuels are killing us.
“Governments need to start treating it with the seriousness it deserves.”
Maria Neira, from the WHO, said: “This case is a huge milestone we need to use correctly and we cannot fail to do it.”