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Prevention of Future Deaths Report published following 2013 death of Ella Abdoo Kissi-Debrah

Ella Abdoo Kissi-Debrah died of her asthma in 2013, aged just 9 years old. Her mother, Rosamund, convinced that air pollution had a role to play fought hard to get her inquest re-opened. Eventually, in December 2019, she was successful. A year later, Philip Barlow, the Assistant Coroner for Inner South London, issued a new death certificate that gives air pollution exposure as one of three medical causes of death. It states that she died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution. This death certificate is the first to include air pollution as a cause of death in the UK, possibly in the world.

On 21st April 2021 the coroner published his Prevention of Future Deaths Report in which he raised three concerns :
  1. National standards for PM are far higher than the WHO guidelines. Legally binding targets based on WHO guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK.
  2. Low public awareness of information on air quality.
  3. The adverse effects of air pollution on health are not sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical and nursing professionals.
The report has been sent to 14 organisations ranging from Defra to the Royal College of Physicians. It concludes that, in the Coroner’s opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths by Central Government Departments to address the first concern, by Central Government Departments, the Mayor of London and the London Borough of Lewisham for the second concern and medical professional bodies for the third concern. The 14 organisations have until 17th June 2021 to respond.

The coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report is available here.

Written by Dr Claire Holman, Director, Air Pollution Services, and an expert witness at the inquest for the Abdoo Kissi-Debrah family.
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