Action on air pollution needed immediately, says Ella Kissi-Debrah’s mother

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A coroner’s call for tougher air pollution targets to be set to cut deaths is not only an achievement in memory of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, but rather “for everybody”, her mother has said.

Action to tackle deadly air pollution is needed “immediately”, said Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter died of a fatal asthma attack eight years ago after being exposed to toxic air.

Ms Kissi-Debrah said her campaigning over the years had been “hard”, but that she would do it all over again in order to achieve change.

Philip Barlow, assistant coroner for Inner South London, said in a report to prevent future deaths, that legally binding targets for particulate matter in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK and the Government should take action to address the issue.

Speaking on Wednesday after the coroner’s report was released, Ella’s mother said she is determined to keep working towards change, but that it is not a “one-woman campaign”.

She told the PA news agency: “I can continue to advocate and work with people and push them where it needs it, but ultimately they (Government and other organisations) have to make those changes.”

Ella Kissi-Debrah inquest
Ella Kissi-Debrah (Family Handout/PA)

Asked how quickly change needs to come, she said: “Now. Immediately. If you’re the one who’s having to rush your child into hospital, then you would want something done now. So I couldn’t elaborate on that. Now.

“Am I insisting? Yeah, OK. I think I have earned that right to insist.”

She added: “Air pollution affects more people than we think.

“Yes, it affects the vulnerable more, yes it affects people who live near busy roads more – as I am testament here. But in a way, it does impact all our lives.”

Speaking about the toll campaigning has taken on her, she said her other children “keep me going, they keep me inspired”, and that she gets a lot of support from the public.

She added: “If Ella wins, so does everyone else. So today again, she’s won, but today I feel it’s for everybody else.”

In his report, the coroner said greater public awareness of air pollution information would help individuals reduce their personal exposure.

Ms Kissi-Debrah said a public health campaign on air pollution is needed, similar to awareness around the dangers of smoking.

She suggested air pollution could possibly be part of daily weather reports, but added that it “isn’t about scaring people, it’s about educating people”.

She said while a larger area might appear to have low air pollution, there can be air pollution hotspots and more knowledge and public awareness is needed around that.

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