Coroner calls on UK government to adopt WHO limits on air pollution

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A coroner has called for new laws on air pollution limits after he concluded that pollution led to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah.

In his report, which has been sent to several government departments and medical institutions, he calls for three clear actions.

Firstly, he says the UK should adopt new legally binding targets based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for particulate matter. Although there is “no safe level for particulate exposure”, lowering PM limits would “reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK”.

Nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah died from air pollution exacerbated asthma: Photograph: Ella Roberta estate

Secondly, he says there is low public awareness of information on national and local pollution levels. He calls on national and local government to do much more about publicising information that is already available, such as via the UK-Air website.

Finally, he is concerned that the adverse effects of air pollution on health are not being sufficiently communicated to patients by their doctors. He says change must be adopted by all key stakeholders in the health education system as well as the bodies which write health guidance, such as NICE.

Commenting, Ella’s mother Rosamund called on the government to act on the report, saying: “As the parent of a child suffering from severe asthma, I should have been given this information but this did not happen.”

“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.”

The UK’s legal limit for fine particulate pollution, PM2.5, is an annual mean of 20 micrograms per cubic metre, twice the 10 micrograms per cubic metre in the WHO guidelines.

The government is committed to a response to the coroner’s report by 17 June.


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