How a nine-year-old girl's death could lead to action on air pollution

Dirty air reduces life expectancy on average by 1.8 years globally and is blamed for 36,000 early deaths annually in the UK. To date no individual death has been directly linked to air pollution, but that could be about to change

Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death on 15 February 2013 was a tragedy for her family. But her mother Rosamund was never satisfied with the verdict on her daughter’s first death certificate, which said she suffered an asthma attack followed by a seizure and died after unsuccessful resuscitation, and has fought for years to get a more fitting conclusion to Ella’s story.

The Kissi-Debrah family lived 25 metres from the capital’s heavily congested and polluted South Circular road, which they often walked along to school. Ella was admitted to hospital 27 times over the three years that she suffered, but no medical staff made an overt link between the attacks and the air she was breathing or gave the family any advice about how to avoid it.

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