In 2013, a 9-year-old girl who suffered a fatal asthma attack has been the first person in Britain to officially have air pollution listed as a cause of death.
According to legal experts, the history-making ruling could bring on additional lawsuits by pollution victims or their families in Britain.
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah resided by a major circular road in southeast London and died in February 2013. A she was asthmatic, she had been taken to the hospital nearly 30 times in less than three years and survived numerous seizures.
Her mother recalled during the inquiry, how, if she had been informed the air pollution was contributing to her daughter’s poor health, she would have moved.
In the ruling, assistant coroner Philip Barlow in London said air pollution had significantly helped induce and exacerbate Ella’s asthma, adding that she had been exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in excess of World Health Organization guidelines.
“The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions,” Mr. Barlow, of the London Inner South Coroner’s Court, stated in his conclusion.
And according to World Health Organization, the effects of air pollution kill an estimated seven million people across the world every year.
While ambient air pollution, which contributed to Ella’s death, “accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases,” according to the W.H.O.
Both legal and health experts called Wednesday’s ruling as a landmark for Britain as well as other countries as it undeniably tied air pollution to a specific death.
Last year, The United Nations Environment Program wrote that if air pollution were to be declared a cause of Ella’s death, it would be “the first time that air pollution has ever been explicitly linked to a named individual’s death.”
“We usually have estimates of numbers, or what we called ‘deaths attributed to,’ but there’s never been one identified case, because it is very hard to directly link a death to air pollution,” said Jonathan Grigg, a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University London. “This is a groundbreaking decision, with pretty overwhelming evidence.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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