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Clean Air Advocate Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah Receives CBE

Prominent clean air advocate Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah received her CBE for services to public health from King Charles on Wednesday, 8 November.

A decade since her eldest daughter, Ella Roberta, passed away at the age of 9, Rosamund has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about the deadly health impacts of air pollution worldwide, urging governments to follow the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines for the protection of human health.

Speaking from Buckingham Palace, Rosamund said: “It was a very poignant day. Ella’s siblings and I were incredibly touched that King Charles knew about Ella’s story and the work that the Ella Roberta Foundation has been doing to raise awareness about air pollution and its threat to human health. We agreed that I will write to him to see where he can support us further. It was an honour of a lifetime to visit Buckingham Palace, it has bolstered my drive to keep going with my campaigning to ensure every child has a right to breathe clean air.”

As founder of the Ella Roberta Foundation and a WHO BreatheLife Ambassador, Rosamund uses her personal experience to highlight the inequality of those most exposed to air pollution, and its debilitating effects on children and their families.

Ella was a healthy, active child until she developed severe asthma at the age of 6. She was hospitalised 28 times over 28 months before dying in February 2013. Rosamund spent years campaigning to establish the links between air pollution on London’s South Circular, near her Lewisham home, and Ella’s illness and death. A coroner’s landmark ruling in December 2020 finally confirmed that illegal levels of air pollution from the diesel and petrol traffic had been a “significant contributory factor” to Ella’s asthma and ultimately her death. As a result, Ella is now the only person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate.

Rosamund is currently campaigning for Ella’s Law, creating a human right to clean air. She is collecting signatures on a petition to require Parliament to debate the bill. She is also calling on local and national policymakers, and health professionals, to follow the coroner’s three recommendations for preventing future deaths like Ella’s.

Rosamund is represented by Hodge Jones & Allen’s legal team led by Nancy Collins, Partner & Civil Liberties and Human Rights Solicitor and all are delighted that Rosamund has been awarded this honour which recognises Rosamund’s amazing work over the last few years.

Nancy said: “The recognition of Rosamund’s incredible efforts to campaign for more significant action to reduce air pollution is justly deserved. Her personal commitment and dedication was recognised very early on by the World Health Organisation who asked her to become an advocate for health and air quality. This honour for services to public health is a testament to Rosamund’s tireless fight for clean air for all, despite the tragic loss of her beloved Ella.”


Editor’s notes:

  • Air pollution contributes to 7-9 million premature deaths worldwide, including 600,000 children, according to the WHO.
  • It has been linked to health problems including asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer, stroke, dementia, infertility, low birthweight, stillbirth, miscarriage and early birth.
  • The coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report, published in April 2021, identified three matters of concern:
    • Setting binding air quality targets in line with the WHO’s guidelines would reduce related deaths in the UK.
    • More monitoring of air quality, and more accessible data, would help to raise public awareness about their exposure to pollution.
    • If medical and nursing staff trained, from undergraduate studies through professional bodies, to advise their patients and carers about the potential impacts of air pollution on their health, they could help to raise awareness.
  • Rosamund is an Honorary Fellow of the British Science Association and has been named among You Magazine’s 21 Most Extraordinary Women of 2021, British Vogue’s 25 Extraordinary Women of 2021, The Times’ Green Power List 2021, and the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List 2020.

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