Air pollution is a public health issue for us all. Emissions from cars, agriculture and other sources have led to poor air quality, which is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK.
Air pollution has been described by the World Health Organization as “a public health emergency”. Outdoor air pollution is estimated to be linked to 40,000 early deaths each year, making it 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. There are legal limits for outdoor air quality and the UK has routinely breached those limits.
For the first time in December 2020, a coroner ruled that air pollution was the cause of the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine year old girl. At a press conference following the Inquest, her mother Rosamund reflected on her daughter’s life and the impact the verdict would have on other children around the world. See full press release.
The verdict has potentially wide ranging impacts for people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution and/or who are clinically vulnerable to it. In 2021, the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report highlighted three areas in which a risk to life persisted and which required action by the authorities. These recommendations are subject to an ongoing campaign by the family to ensure that lessons are learned from Ella’s death and to improve air quality for all children.