Air pollution is believed to cause or contribute to around 40,000 deaths in Britain every year—but it has never been listed as a cause of death. That could change in the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a 9-year-old who lived just 25 yards from one of the busiest roads in London. Ella died in 2013 after three years of seizures and 27 hospital visits for asthma attacks, the Guardian reports. An inquest in 2014 determined that Ella died from acute respiratory failure and severe asthma, but Britain's High Court decided to grant a new inquest after hearing new evidence that illegal levels of air pollution had contributed to the death, reports the BBC. She lived near the South Circular Road, where air pollution regularly reached illegal levels.
If air pollution is listed as a cause of death, it could force the government to "answer difficult questions about why they have ignored the overwhelming evidence about the detrimental health impact of air pollution and allowed illegal levels to persist," says Jocelyn Cockburn, an attorney for the family. Ella's mother says she looks forward to finding out the truth."The past six years of not knowing why my beautiful, bright, and bubbly daughter died has been difficult for me and my family, but I hope the new inquest will answer whether air pollution took her away from us," she says."If it is proved that pollution killed Ella then the government will be forced to sit up and take notice that this hidden but deadly killer is cutting short our children's lives." (Read more air pollution stories.)