Following the tragic death of a 9 year old school girl in London, and as rising air pollution, has been established as the cause of her end, a coroner gathers courage to urge Britain to adopt harsh measures by formulating specific air-quality targets with legal implications.
Named as Ella Kissi-Debrah, she was suffering with critical asthma and in 2013, as she unfortunately got sudden exposure to high-levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, she died. Coroner Philip Barlow pointed out Nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter to be the by-product of traffic emissions.
On 21st of April, a report got circulated in which is largely hailed as “prevention of future deaths” wherein coroner requested this case, that should strictly be on WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines, saying, ““There is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken,”
“The national limits for Particulate Matter are set at a level far higher than the WHO guidelines … Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK.”
According to WHO, PM2.5, i.e. fine particulate matter should not be allowed to go over than 10 μg/m3 which is annual mean, while for PM10, the limit is set at 20 µg/m3 as annual mean. But, UK recorded higher and alarming statistics for such PMs, 25 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 40 µg/m3 annual mean for PM10.
To be certain, particulate content comprised of minute particles (dust and smoke) that can get into the lungs and can easily make their way into bloodstream and such are a by-product of vehicles, industries and home heating.
Some years ago, a community research was carried out, under the auspices of Royal College Of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which found that severe level of air pollution claim about 40 thousand deaths every year.
Government has set up department of environment Defra which replied, “carefully consider the recommendations in (the coroner’s) report and respond in due course. Through our landmark environment bill, we are also setting ambitious new air quality targets, with a focus on reducing public health impacts,”
As for EU, air pollution has to within legal limits in its countries and violation of which attracts harsh legal actions and Britain has been a culprit on the occasion of producing nitrogen dioxide higher than the set target. But as Britain has accomplished Brexit last year, its parliamentarians are now brainstorming on “Environment Bill” that would give way to new regulator supplemented by detailed description about different targets about and for the cause of healthy environment.
Reaching out to medical fraternity, coroner asked for their proactive support in creating widespread awareness about gory impact of air pollution with severe levels so as to persuade patients and public alike to take necessary precautions and to avoid undue exposure to it.
He has outlined the need for better and trustable information to be shared with commoners indicating levels of air pollution prevailing in their location. He firmly maintained, “Greater awareness would help individuals reduce their personal exposure to air pollution. It was clear from the evidence at the inquest that publicising this information is an issue that needs to be addressed by national as well as local government. The information must be sufficiently detailed and this is likely to require enlargement of the capacity to monitor air quality, for example by increasing the number of air quality sensors.”
Reacting to these developments, Rosamund, who is Kissi-Debrah’s mother, has come out in support of such recommendations stating that such awareness at every level of society could be life-saving to her daughter and she would have been alive today.
She issued a statement, “Because of a lack of information I did not take the steps to reduce Ella’s exposure to air pollution that might have saved her life. I will always live with this regret. But it is not too late for other children,”
“Children are dying unnecessarily because the government is not doing enough to combat air pollution.”
This is worth mentioning that during her lifetime, in Lewisham, South London, where she dwelled, nitrogen dioxide emissions outpaced the limits set by EU and national levels and particulate matter went higher than what WHO guidelines establish, too.
Sarah Woolnough, who looks after Asthma UK, as chief executive and also looks after British Lungs Foundation, stated, “If the government follows the recommendations in this report, and commits to much bolder clean air laws in line with World Health Organization guidelines, this would be a game-changer.”
Likewise, Guy Mitchell, representing Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, which is among the legal crew hired by the family, advised the government to include new set limits into the environment bill. He stated, “This report follows a groundbreaking finding that air pollution contributed to Ella’s death,” he said. “The coroner clearly expresses concern that further action is needed to prevent further deaths. It comes at a hugely significant moment, with the environment bill due to come back to parliament.
“The bill is currently deficient in not including health-based air quality targets or requirements for provision of information to the public. The government should act to ensure the coroner’s concerns are addressed in the bill.”