Call for air quality public health campaign as Silvertown Tunnel targeted

Ella Kissi-Debrah and her mum, Rosamund.

Ella Kissi-Debrah and her mum, Rosamund who called for a national awareness raising campaign into the effects of air quality during a meeting organised by Newham's NEU branch. - Credit: Rosamund Kissi-Debrah

The mother of a schoolgirl whose death was partly down to pollution has called for a public health campaign on air quality.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s daughter Ella was nine years old when she suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013.

An inquest in December ruled that being exposed to excessive levels of toxic air contributed to her death.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, speaking at a public meeting called by Newham's branch of the National Education Union (NEU), said: "Ella isn't the only person air pollution has killed.

"There are many more. Watching the effort that has gone into Covid tells me government can do things if it wants to."

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She called for the campaign so more people know the impact poor air quality has on health and how to tackle it.

GP Dr Rachel Parker told the meeting on Tuesday, June 15 that toxic air kills 96 people in Newham each year, with vehicles a major source.

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She said Newham has the highest level of air pollution in England with the A13 and Romford Road being particular hotspots.

PM2.5 is a term used to describe the mix of airborne solid particles and liquid droplets emitted from vehicle engines and other sources.

One in seven Newham residents live in areas where harmful nitrogen dioxide - NO- is above the UK limit and deaths attributable to PM2.5 exposure are 38 per cent higher than the UK average, Dr Parker said. 

Toxic air has been linked to babies born with smaller heads and low birth weight. It also affects lung development in children and heart problems in adults.

In light of this, London Mayor Sadiq Khan was urged in the meeting to pause construction of the Silvertown Tunnel linking Newham to the Greenwich Peninsula.

In a letter to Mr Khan, opponents say the link will increase traffic and have a "severe" impact on health, insisting an updated health impact assessment must be done.

READ MORE: Labour accused of blocking 'embarrassing' questions to Sadiq Khan

A government spokesperson said air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010 and emissions of fine particulate matter have fallen 11 per cent. He added emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began.

"We are continuing to deliver a £3.8billion plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 pollution with new targets to protect communities," he said.

A spokesperson for the mayor of London said a health impact assessment was done as part of the planning application, meaning it was fully scrutinised in public by the planning inspectorate and the government before permission was granted.

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