Asthma and Air pollution – justice for Ella Kissi-Debrah

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I feel really honoured as well as deeply sadden to have been asked to help raise awareness of this particular issue. Some of you may have seen in the papers last week the news that the death of a nine year old girl could be linked to illegal levels of air pollution.

The guardian reported that legal documents have revealed that the spikes in air pollution in London could have been linked to Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death in 2013.

Asthma and Air Pollution

Ella’s family have set up a foundation, the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, as a way to remember her life and raise awareness about the dangers of Asthma and dangers of air pollution.

Her mother, my former school teacher and old friend was able to share some facts with me about Asthma and Ella’s condition.

  • In the UK, asthma is the number one childhood illness.
  • Currently in the UK three people die from asthma every day and at least two of those deaths are avoidable.
  • In London the picture is increasingly worrying not only does the capital record high levels of air pollution but 872 schools are in areas which breach the EU recommended levels.
  • Asthma in London continues to increase, in a class of 30 at least 3-4 children will have a diagnosis of asthma. The number of asthma deaths every year amongst children aged between 1 to 17 years in London is between 8-12 children.

Part of the difficulty with Ella’s asthma was it was increasingly difficult to control. Some of her known allergies were tree pollen, grass pollen and hayfever but others were Airborne and are still unknown.


Various inhalers and steroids was unable to control Ella’s life threatening attacks, they even occurred in her sleep. Ella would say “Mummy, we don’t sleep anymore.”  After being woken by another severe attack. Living with severe asthma was incredibly stressful and very frightening at times.  Ella eventually lost her battle with asthma on 15 February 2013. She was 9.

The foundation campaigns for Clean Air in London and for better diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other respiratory illnesses and have been calling for an inquest to investigate whether Ella’s death was caused by air pollution.

Levels of Air Pollution have reached dangerous levels

Air pollution, labelled a health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO), leads to the premature deaths of at least 40,000 people a year in the UK alone. It is known to be a major risk factor for childhood asthma.

The UN agency has previously warned that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources are killing 3 million people worldwide each year. China is the world’s deadliest country for outdoor air pollution, according to analysis by the WHO.

For the first time the WHO has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level. It reveals that of the worst three nations, more than 1 million people died from dirty air in China in 2012, at least 600,000 in India and more than 140,000 in Russia.

At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.

London has the worst air quality of any city in the UK. In 2017, 95 per cent of Londoners lived in areas which exceeded World Health Organisation (WHO) standards by 50 per cent.

We need your support

Please support us in getting a fair inquest into the cause of Ella’s death. Last week the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan came out in support of the inquest writing to attorney general to also back the inquest.

The petition has reached over 96,000 signatures but we still need more. The link to the petition is

This isn’t just about justice of Ella but for all of those suffering with respiratory diseases and illnesses in air quality that is severely below standards. We need change and we need it now.


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