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Queen Mary academic provides expert testimony for inquest on air pollution death

An inquest has ruled that air pollution was the cause of death of a nine year old girl. The outcome has made legal history as air pollution has never been identified as a cause of death before in the UK.

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Ella Kissi-Debrah. Credit: The Ella Roberta Family Foundation
Ella Kissi-Debrah. Credit: The Ella Roberta Family Foundation

Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, provided expert medical testimony to the inquest of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died after an acute asthma attack in February 2013 aged nine years old.

He said: “This is a ground-breaking decision since the law has determined that, for this tragic case, air pollution from London's south circular road not only triggered life-threatening asthma in Ella Kissi-Debrah, but also caused her asthma.

“I am honoured to have been able to contribute to the medical evidence used in the coroner’s decision, and hope that this decision rapidly leads to policies that reduce exposure of all children to air pollution.”

The inquest was granted after lawyers for the family presented evidence that directly linked Ella’s serious form of asthma with heavy traffic on the South Circular Road near her home. Her death coincided with one of the worst air pollution surges in her local area.

Giving evidence at Southwark coroner’s court, Professor Grigg showed that, at the time of Ella’s death, scientists already had a good understanding of the links between asthma and air pollution.

Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah also told the coroner that she previously knew nothing about nitrogen dioxide or air pollution and would have moved house had she been told of the link with her daughter’s condition.

She said her daughter had been taken to hospital around 28 times during her life after suffering acute asthma attacks and seizures.

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