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Mayor of London Apologises For Failing To Tackle Poor Air Quality Sooner

Mayor of London apologises to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah for not acting sooner to tackle poor air quality which contributed to daughter Ella’s death

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan today apologised to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah CBE and her family on behalf of the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) for not acting sooner to tackle poor air quality, which contributed to 9-year-old Ella’s death in 2013.

Ella had a happy childhood in Southeast London. Her childhood home was close to the South Circular Road in Lewisham, London. She developed asthma just before her seventh birthday. The asthma attacks left her struggling to breathe and she required frequent hospitalisation. A few weeks after her ninth birthday she suffered a fatal asthma attack.

In December 2020 the Coroner concluded that air pollution contributed to Ella’s death. Ella became the first person in the world to have air pollution recorded as a cause of death on her death certificate. The Coroner’s findings were the result of Rosamund’s determination to uncover possible links between Ella’s death and air pollution, particularly the unlawful levels of nitrogen dioxide caused by traffic on the South Circular. Before Ella’s death, healthcare professionals had not identified air pollution as a potential cause of her ill health.

Having represented Ella’s family at the inquest, Hodge Jones & Allen issued a claim against several public bodies including Government departments, the Mayor of London and Transport for London, for breaches of the Human Rights Act. Rosamund has accepted a settlement offer advanced by the Mayor and TfL, which included a personal apology from Sadiq Khan:

“As the Mayor of London, I’d like to take this opportunity – on behalf of the Greater London Authority and our city – to offer a full and unqualified apology for not acting sooner to tackle air pollution, which ultimately led to the tragic death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah.

In recent years, we’ve ensured that London is a world-leader in reducing air pollution. But it’s clear that London’s leaders and institutions could have done more and sooner to address the dangers of toxic air.

And so, to Ella’s mother Rosamund and her family, and to all those who knew and loved Ella, I simply say:
          You deserved so much better.

But – like you – I’m determined to keep Ella’s memory and legacy alive by ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past by failing today’s generation of young Londoners. Because no child should suffer as Ella did.

And no family should have to endure the pain and heartbreak that you have.

That’s why – not only will I continue doing everything in my power to clean up London’s air, but I’ll also continue putting pressure on the Government to do more to prevent further needless suffering and death, including by adopting ‘Ella’s law’. This would make breathing clean air what it should be – a right that must be upheld.”

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said: “I would like to thank the Mayor for his apology on behalf of the city today. Nothing will ever make up for the pain and suffering that Ella went through. And nothing will ever make up for the pain and suffering my family has been through since losing her in such circumstances.

My goal has always been to stop other children from suffering like Ella did and to see the Coroner’s three recommendations become reality.

  1. The implementation of legal air pollution limits based on the World Health Organisation guidelines
  2. A public awareness campaign on the dangers of air pollution to human health
  3. Increase awareness and education of the medical community on the dangers of air pollution to patients.

“My family and I will continue to fight for the health of all children and with everyone’s support, one day we will get justice for Ella Roberta.

“Today I would like to this opportunity to thank my lawyer Nancy Collins and the rest of my legal team who continue to fight for justice for Ella.”

Nancy Collins, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Rosamund has had to endure the unbearable loss of her child and yet she has found extraordinary strength to campaign for change. We cannot ignore the dangers of air pollution. Were it not for Rosamund’s determination, the public would not know the potentially lethal risks of air pollution in our cities. We must build on her achievements and enshrine the legal right to clean air for all.”

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