Ella Kissi-Debrah was a 9-year-old girl who tragically died of a fatal asthma attack in 2013.
Ella lived 25 metres from the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London – one of the capital’s busiest roads. She was first taken to hospital in 2010 after a coughing fit and subsequently admitted to hospital 27 times.
Air pollution is widely acknowledged to be a trigger for asthma attacks, and the dramatic worsening of Ella’s asthma coincided with high levels of air pollution. The 2018 report by Prof Stephen Holgate, an expert on asthma and air pollution, found there was a “striking association” between the times she was admitted to hospital and recorded spikes in nitrogen dioxide and PM10s, the most noxious pollutants, near her home. The air pollution levels at the Catford monitoring station one mile from Ella’s home “consistently” exceeded lawful EU limits during the three years prior to her death.
Ms Kissi-Debrah said that she had “absolutely no doubt whatsoever” that her daughter’s death was related to air pollution. She said she wanted “to show to the British public what air pollution can actually do – they need to start getting angry about this”.
Ella may become the first person in the UK for whom air pollution is listed as the cause of death.
By starting with Camden, we aim to encourage other boroughs throughout London to clean up their air. We can then dream of a future where children across London can breathe safe, clean air.