Toxic air has always been a significant problem in the United Kingdom. One painful example that proves this is the case of Ella Kissih-Debrah, the nine-year-old who died of a severe asthma attack due to air pollution.
Ella was a bright schoolgirl when she started having multiple asthma attacks after being regularly exposed to toxic air in the area of the South Circular Road in the southeast of London. She regularly walked to school. Ella died in 2013, but Coroner Phillip Barlow came out with the official cause of death only in December 2020. According to Barlow, the nine-year-old died from constant exposure to extremely high levels of air pollution. This caused Ella to experience a severe asthma attack and cardiac arrest.
The toxic air in the area where Ella and her mum lived was over the limits recommended by the World Health Organization. The WHO set these limits to not be higher than the annual mean of 10μg/m3 for PM2.5 (delicate particulate matter) and 20μg/m3 for PM10 (particulate matter). However, the UK’s PM2.5 annual mean was 25μg/m3 while the PM10 yearly mean was 40μg/m3 – both are way above the World Health Organization’s safe and legal limits.
According to Coroner Barlow, the UK government’s failure to bring toxic air levels to the WHO’s legal limits significantly contributed to Ella’s death. Authorities were also called out for failing to provide essential air pollution information to the nine-year-old’s mother.
Although the government took Barlow’s findings and suggestions seriously, not much has been done to correct the air pollution levels in the UK. Authorities promised a public consultation in January 2022 and new toxic air targets by October 2022, but this would not be enough.
British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK chief executive Sarah Woolnough believes these actions do not even scratch the surface of toxic air’s negative impacts on human health and the environment. She claims bold, ambitious action and new laws are the best ways to prevent thousands of UK residents from dying yearly because of air pollution.
Other than the promised consultation and new targets set for October this year, the UK government does not have specific and immediate actions or plans to lower the air pollution limits in the country.
What is air like in the UK?
The NO2 levels in the area Ella and her mother lived in were way over the EU and WHO guidelines. Exposure to NO2 can lead to several health issues, and UK’s air is laden with nitrogen dioxide and other dangerous gases.
An unbelievable 97% of homes are exposed to air pollution, with toxic air levels exceeding WHO limits. Approximately 75% of the urban areas in the country have high levels of NO2 from diesel vehicles. A map of dirty air reveals Slough in Berkshire as the most polluted (90%). London is second with 66%. Others on the list include Leeds, Reading, Manchester, and Portsmouth.
Additionally, a review in 2019 revealed that toxic air is responsible for millions of early deaths around the world, with around 40,000 cases happening in the United Kingdom.
What does air pollution/toxic air does to human health
NO2 is emitted by diesel vehicles in the form of NOx or nitrogen oxides, which also have NO or nitric oxide. NOx gases are responsible for forming acid rain and smog. It also creates ground-level ozone, an irritating gas and secondary pollutant above the earth’s surface.
Constant exposure to NOx triggers and aggravates asthma symptoms, lung function reduction, lung tissue damage, diabetes, heart disease, and other respiratory problems. Excessive exposure can cause severe consequences, including early death.
Mental health issues may also develop in individuals exposed to NOx, the most common of which are depression and anxiety.
NOx emissions can affect the ecosystem. It can damage vegetation, which may be at risk for frost damage and disease. Leaves can dry up.
Toxic air and the Dieselgate scandal
As mentioned earlier, diesel vehicles contribute to NOx emissions. The Dieselgate scandal in 2015 is concrete proof of this. The scam exposed the illegal practice of car manufacturers in emissions testing. Volkswagen was the first carmaker caught and legally charged by authorities for using defeat devices in their diesel vehicles.
Defeat devices hide real-world NOx emissions levels by automatically adjusting the engine when the car is in lab testing. When driven on real roads and under operating conditions, the NOx emissions are way over the safe levels set by the WHO and EU authorities. The scandal involves numerous car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz. Owners of affected vehicles are encouraged to file a diesel Mercedes claim against their manufacturers.
Your diesel claim
If you are eligible to claim, you might ask, how can I file my diesel claim? While the process is simple, it can be challenging and time-consuming. There are legal requirements to adhere to. Going into your diesel claim with experience is essential, so the best thing to do is work with an experienced and regulated panel of solicitors. You will want to partner with the well-trained panel of solicitors at Emissions.co.uk as they have experience in these claims. Get in touch with them now to see if you are eligible to claim.