London faces ‘pivotal moment’ in efforts to tackle air pollution, says mayor

Sadiq Khan is convening a summit on clean air and health in the capital.

17 February 2022

London mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for health workers to play a greater role informing patients of the risk of air pollution and how to protect themselves.

Mr Khan is convening a summit on clean air and health in the capital which is expected to hear from speakers including the Government’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and environment minister Jo Churchill.

The meeting is also set to hear from Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah whose daughter Ella was nine-years-old when she suffered a fatal asthma attack nine years ago this week.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
Ella’s death was linked to her exposure to severe air pollution (Family Handout/PA)

Her death was later linked by a coroner to her exposure to severe air pollution from living 25 metres from the South Circular in Lewisham, London.

The coroner’s report, published last year, set out the need for government, the NHS and health and care professionals to do more to raise awareness of the serious health effects of air pollution, which will be discussed at the summit.

Mr Khan will tell those attending they are facing a “pivotal moment” in efforts to tackle the triple dangers to health of Londoners and the economy, of toxic air pollution, climate change and congestion.

It is expected to discuss a review of the existing pollution alerts systems, developing guidance for doctors and nurses to help them raise the issues of air pollution with their patients and steps the NHS and wider healthcare system can take.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said eight to 12 children died every year from asthma in London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

City Hall is also publishing updated air quality guides for local officials, with specific information on air pollution levels in each borough, including around priority sites such as schools, hospitals and care homes, and data on health impacts.

Mr Khan said: “We are facing a pivotal moment in our efforts to tackle the triple dangers of toxic air pollution, climate change and congestion and make London a green, fairer and safer city.”

He said tackling air pollution had been a priority for him since he was first elected, but the inquest into Ella’s death had underlined the need to do much more to warn Londoners about the effects of air pollution.

“We simply don’t have time to waste – deadly air pollution is permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and affecting older people who are more vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality.

“This is also about social justice. We know pollution hits the poorest Londoners, who are least likely to own a car, the hardest, which is why I’m doing everything I can to improve air quality and protect the health of all Londoners.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan
London mayor Sadiq Khan said ‘we simply don’t have time to waste’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, BreatheLife ambassador and founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, said: “This week was the ninth anniversary of my daughter’s passing.

“The coroner’s inquest showed without a doubt that air pollution from the traffic near our home contributed to Ella’s severe asthma, and that without it Ella would still be alive today.

“The coroner set out clear recommendations on how the UK’s national and local governments and health professionals can prevent future deaths like Ella’s.

“In London, eight to 12 children die from asthma every year. That is unacceptable, and it’s time we act to save their lives.”

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