Air Pollution

Hodge Jones & Allen are renowned human rights solicitors and are fearless in taking on new challenges and areas of work. One of these issues is air pollution. Although you would think the clean air that we breathe would be a basic human right, it is not currently recognised as such. Our team of solicitors examine legal challenges regarding the failure of government bodies to protect the public from, and inform them about, the health risks associated with pollution.

The government continues to say that it is committed to improving air quality but until public health is prioritised over the interests of polluters progress will be slow.  Our team of lawyers is looking at innovative cases to enhance the protection of those who are vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.

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On 15 March 2018 a combined House of Commons report, Improving Air Quality, was published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Select Committees [198]. It stated:

“Poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, and was described by the World Health Organization as “a public health emergency”. The total burden of outdoor air pollution has been estimated to be equal to 40,000 early deaths each year, though this figure is currently under review. We were told this figure would make air pollution the second largest cause of avoidable mortality after smoking… Children and older people are particularly vulnerable, as are people with pre-existing health conditions including asthma…”

A Notable Air Pollution Case – Ella Kissi Debrah

Jocelyn Cockburn, who is a partner in the team, has been a trailblazer in this area. For three years she has represented the family of Ella Kissi-Debrah who died on 15 February 2013 from asthma, aged 9. Ella lived only 25 metres from the highly polluted South Circular Road in London. For three years between 2010 and 2013 she suffered a series of asthma attacks that led to regular hospitalisation. The first inquest did not investigate what had triggered her asthma. This led them to approach Jocelyn to explore whether there was a link between her episodes of ill health and the air pollution to which she was exposed.

There is considerable widespread public concern about the risks posed by air pollution, and about the role of pollution in Ella’s specific death.

A petition signed by 177,363 people called for a second inquest into her death. In 2019 the High Court ordered that there should be a second inquest into Ella’s death that should look into whether air pollution contributed to her death.

For too long, air pollution has been low down on the government agenda

Jocelyn and the team, including Claire Brigham and Guy Mitchell, are also looking into challenging state bodies in relation to failures to take sufficient steps to reduce air pollution exposure, alongside Ella’s case, relating to concerns raised by local residents about the health impacts. For instance in relation to schools along busy highroads and protections of state employees whose work exposes them to high levels of air pollution.

Jocelyn said: “For too long air pollution has been low down on the government agenda – even when it has been shown that they are in breach of lawful levels there has been a lack of action. I think cases like Ella’s will help to push government bodies, with the help of public pressure, to start to prioritise the health of people in urban areas over and above considerations such as the convenience of polluters or resource implications.”

If you, or a member of your family, have been affected by air pollution and your health has suffered, call 0808 278 2531 for a confidential discussion. The failure to address the long-known risk of poor health and death resulting from living and working in areas with toxic air needs to be challenged.

How to make a Air Pollution claim

  • Contact our highly experienced team

Whatever your needs, our team of highly experienced solicitors can provide you with the help and advice you need. To seek advice from our specialist team of human rights solicitors you should contact one of our experienced team free, either by telephone or through our online form.

  • We’ll gather the information to review your case

Once we have all the information we need we will then let you know if you have a case which we can assist with. Following us completing the case review if you have a case which we can help with we will then arrange a time to meet or talk through to discuss your needs and particular situation in greater detail.

  • Help you with the best resolution

You will then be allocated a solicitor specialising in the field to help you find the best possible resolution during a stressful and often sensitive time.

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