A 9-year-old girl in the UK who died following an asthma attack is believed to be the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as their cause of death.
Exposure to “excessive air pollution” played a “significant” role in the 2013 death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a coroner found in a landmark ruling Wednesday.
“Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma,” coroner Philip Barlow said following a two-week hearing.
He said that in the three years before Ella’s death, she was exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that exceeded World Health Organization guidelines.
Barlow added that the “principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions.”
Ella lived near a busy thoroughfare in Lewisham in southeast London that often gets clogged with heavy traffic.
Before her death, she had been taken to the hospital nearly 30 times with breathing problems.
The landmark ruling could force Britain to get tougher on traffic and clean up city air.
Under European Union laws, the annual average concentration level of nitrogen dioxide cannot exceed 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air — a target Britain has missed for a decade.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the coroner’s conclusion a “landmark moment.”
Ella’s mother, Rosamund, agreed.
12Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, Ella Kissi-Debrah’s mother
AFP via Getty Images
“Today was a landmark case, a 7 year fight has resulted in air pollution being recognised on Ella’s death certificate,” she tweeted.
“Hopefully this will mean many more children’s lives being saved.”