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Campaigners tell Government to crack down on toxic air after girl's death
21 April 2021, 15:23 | Updated: 21 April 2021, 15:59
The Government is under pressure to introduce new legal targets for dangerous pollution in the wake of a coroner's report into the death of a nine-year-old girl after exposure to toxic air.
Committing to bolder clean air laws, which would tackle harmful particulate matter, would be a "game-changer", according to campaigners.
The coroner in the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died from a fatal asthma attack after being exposed to toxic air for years, has said national limits were set far higher than World Health Organisation guidelines.
Assistant coroner Philip Barlow said tougher legal targets would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK.
He urged ministers, who plan to "respond in due course" to his findings, to take action on the issues highlighted in the report.
Responding to findings, Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: "The death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from a fatal asthma attack, triggered by air pollution, has shone a bright light on the need for the Government to urgently tackle toxic air."
She said children, older people and the 6.5 million people in the UK living with respiratory disease are all at risk from poisonous air.
"If the Government follows the recommendations in this report, and commits to much bolder clean air laws in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, this would be a game-changer, potentially preventing thousands more families facing the death of a loved one because of air pollution."
The Government has been asked to produce a 'health protection plan' for England "to safeguard everyone from the effects of air pollution" which would be overseen by a newly-created cross-government air quality minister.
"This should include proposals to train up health professionals to understand how dirty air impacts our health and ensure people are getting the health information they need about air pollution to protect themselves."
Responding to the coroner's prevention of future deaths report, a Government spokesperson said: "Our thoughts continue to be with Ella's family and friends.
"We are delivering a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) pollution and going further in protecting communities from air pollution, particularly PM2.5 (particulate matter), which is especially harmful to human health.
"Through our landmark Environment Bill, we are also setting ambitious new air quality targets, with a focus on reducing public health impacts.
"We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and respond in due course."