A nine-year-old girl’s fatal asthma attack has been linked to illegally high levels of air pollution.
A nine-year-old girl has died from a fatal asthma attack and this is the first time an individual death has been linked to air pollution. One of the UKs leading experts, Stephen Holgate says there was a “striking association” between the girl’s emergency hospital admissions and recorded spikes in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM10s. Spikes in air pollution coincided with all but one of Ella’s hospital admissions and her fatal asthma attack came after one of the “worst air pollution episodes in her locality”.
With so much information now available about the health impacts of air pollution and the link to thousands of deaths in the UK, it doesn’t make any sense that no direct link to an individual death has been made earlier, says human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn who is acting on behalf of the family.
The girl lived with her family near the South Circular Road and Lewisham High Street in south London, which is a heavily trafficked and polluted area. The girl’s mother said she had been treated by five different hospitals before her death, but no one had ever told her about the potential link to air pollution.
UK citizens spend on average 90% of their time indoors and around 16 hours a day in their homes. Indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and as the girl lived in an area with high levels of outdoor air pollution this means her home, a place one would view as safe, may have been even worse for her health.
According to a government report published in 2018, poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK – yet, public information on the matter is still lacking.
In his report, Professor Holgate described exposure to air pollutants as a “key driver” of the girl’s disease and that “unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the cause and seriousness of the girl’s asthma in a way that greatly compromised her quality of life and was causative of her fatal asthma attack”.
If she would have known more about the health effects of air pollution, she would have looked at moving to a different area and making sure her home was safe for her daughter to be in, says the girl’s mother.