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LONDON, April 21 — Britain should introduce legally-binding air pollution targets based on World Health Organisation guidelines, the coroner in the inquest of a nine-year-old who died after a severe asthma attack said today.
In a legal first, Philip Barlow ruled in December last year that poor air quality from vehicle emissions made a “material contribution” to the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013.
In his report to prevent future deaths, published on Wednesday, Barlow said evidence suggested “there is no safe level for particulate matter and that the WHO guidelines should be seen as minimum requirements”.
Britain’s current limits are “far higher” than WHO guidelines and their implementation “would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK”, he added.
Barlow, who is assistant coroner for Inner South London, also called for greater public awareness of air pollution to help people limit their personal exposure.
Ella’s mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, urged authorities to heed the report, saying “children are dying unnecessarily because the government is not doing enough to combat air pollution”.
The schoolgirl died of acute respiratory failure in February 2013 after a serious asthma attack. She had been taken to hospital nearly 30 times in the previous three years with breathing difficulties.
The young girl lived in southeast London just 30 metres (yards) from a major ringroad in the British capital which is often clogged with heavy traffic.
The coroner’s ruling was the first to have poor air quality recorded as a factor on a death certificate.
Barlow said Ella was “exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide in excess of World Health Organisation guidelines. The principal source of her exposure was traffic emissions”.
He said it was also important to record a “recognised failure” to reduce those NO2 levels to within existing UK limits, “which possibly contributed to her death”.
Between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in Britain each year are thought to be linked to air pollution.
According to figures from the London mayor’s office, WHO-recommended limits for air pollution are broken in virtually all of the British capital.
Across the world, the global health body says air pollution kills some seven million people every year and nine out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds guideline limits on pollutants. — AFP
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