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The Silent Killer Around Us

Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah, a London resident, had been suffering from breathing problems since the tender age of six. In one winter afternoon, the nine-year-old girl developed severe asthma. Like the previous occasions, the doctors tried their best for this time, too. However, they failed to save the little girl…

The incident had taken place on February 5, 2013. However, the name of Ella is back in the news, courtesy Philip Barlow, a coroner. Last week, Barlow claimed that Air Pollution was the main cause of the death of Ella. The inner south London coroner initiated a legal history by ruling that Ella’s death in February 2013 was caused by acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure. This is the first time when death caused by air pollution has been mentioned in official Death Certificate of a human being!

Ella Adoo Kissi Debrah

According to Barlow, failure of the concerned authorities in Britain to reduce pollution levels to admissible limits possibly contributed to Ella’s death. He further mentioned in the report that doctors did not inform her mother about the potential role of air pollution in exacerbating asthma. “Ella died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution. The whole of Ella’s life was lived in close proximity to highly polluting roads. I have no difficulty in concluding that her personal exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter was very high,” stressed the coroner.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has termed the coroner’s conclusion as a Landmark Moment, calling pollution a public health crisis. Speaking at a press conference, the Mayor said: “Today must be a turning point so that other families do not have to suffer the same heartbreak as Ella’s family. Toxic air pollution is a public health crisis, especially for our children, and the inquest underlined yet again the importance of pushing ahead with bold policies, such as expanding the ultra-low emission zone to inner London.

Rosamund with her daughter

It may be taken into account that Ella’s mother Rosamund has insisted, time and again, that air pollution was responsible for her daughter’s death. Ella used to live just 30 meters from the busy Ring Road in south-east London. It is clear from the documents, submitted by Rosamund’s advocates, that the air pollution in that particular area where she lives is much higher than the level set by the European Union (EU).

Ella had to be hospitalised for the first time at the age of six because of breathing problem. She was admitted to hospital at least 26 times in the next three years; and she became crippled in 2012. Finally, the girl left this world in February 2013. Her doctor, Professor Stephen Holgate – an Immunopharmacologist and Consultant Respiratory Physician of the University of Southampton and Southampton General Hospital – has said that the biological cause of Ella’s disease getting worse in the winter months was the seasonal worsening air pollution. He further said that Ella was just like a canary in a coalmine, claiming that the toxic mix of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides in the air, could pose a serious threat to other Londoners.

Pollution in London

As per a survey conducted in 2019, nearly 91% of the World Population lives in areas where air pollution levels are much higher than the level recommended by the World Health Organisation!

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