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January 27, 2020

What Ella’s mum is doing to prevent further deaths from air pollution

Ella Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 age nine years old following a series of severe asthma attacks. Her death has been linked to air pollution levels near her home and school, said to have peaked when she died.


The inquest into Ella’s death failed to consider that air pollution was a contributing factor. A new inquest will soon consider evidence from medical experts in the field of air pollution. Professor Holgate of Southampton University was the person who first identified that airborne contaminants may have been responsible for Ella’s death. If proven, it could mean that Ella would be the first case to have air pollution officially recorded as the cause of death.


Since Ella’s death, her mother Rosamund has been campaigning to raise awareness of the impact of poor air quality on children’s health. She set up a charity, to raise awareness and funds for research and education into childhood asthma, and the link with poor air quality. Rosamund speaks at a community and public level on air quality and children’s health.

Indoor air quality

Most recently, Rosamund has widened the lens to talk about indoor as well as outdoor air quality, turning her focus to include how we can make buildings into safer places with healthier levels of air quality. So it makes sense that she has just joined a new group for ‘Health and Wellbeing in Buildings’ at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) to add her voice to one of their key goals, improving air quality inside buildings.


BESA are calling on the government to include new legislation covering indoor air quality in the upcoming review of the Environment Bill. They would like to see air quality monitored inside schools and hospitals, and alert systems put into place to gather more data to help with planning of events when pollution levels might be high.

Environment Bill 2019

The Environment Bill was introduced to parliament in October 2019. The Bill puts into legislation a series of legally binding environmental targets in four “priority areas” of air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency, and waste reduction.


The first part of the Bill is to provide measures to address environmental governance gaps following withdrawal from the EU and beyond. It also includes the establishment of an Office for Environmental Protection, which will have scrutiny, advice and enforcement functions.


The Bill has been the subject of much public debate with many experts and members of the public taking to the streets to voice concerns that the targets and recommendations do not go far, or fast enough to improve public health.

Information on the Environment Bill 2019

Read more about Professor Holgate’s research into air pollution.

Image courtesy of the Ella Roberta Family Health Foundation.

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