Air pollution caused the asthma attack that killed 9-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013, a London coroner said Wednesday. The landmark determination, that “exposure to excessive air pollution” was a “significant contributory factor” to Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death, is the first time a death in Britain has been attributed to air pollution, and legal experts say it could open the door to a wave of lawsuits by pollution victims and push the British government to crack down on air pollution.
Ella, who was Black, lived near a major circular road in southeast London, and her death is a stark illustration of the links between racism and environmental pollution. “We are facing the same issue in Britain than in the United States: those who are producing less of the pollutants are the ones getting the most exposure,” Jonathan Grigg, a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University London, told the New York Times.
Ella was hospitalized almost 30 times in less than three years, but her mother was never told of the health risks posed to her daughter by air pollution. “Today was a landmark case, a 7 year fight has resulted in air pollution being recognised on Ella’s death certificate. Hopefully this will mean many more children’s lives being saved,” Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Ella’s mother, wrote on Twitter. (New York Times $, The Guardian, BBC, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Bloomberg $, CNN, CBS; Commentary: The Guardian, Anjali Raman-Middleton op-ed)