Girl, 9, who died ‘from air pollution’ was the ‘centre’ of her family’s world

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A girl who died after an asthma attack was “the centre of our world”, her mum said.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah said Ella had been active despite her asthma, enjoying sport and playing several musical instruments.

She also said the family would have moved home had they known about the dangers local air pollution posed to Ella’s health.

Ella died aged nine in 2013.

She had suffered from seizures and made almost 30 hospital visits in the previous three years because of her breathing difficulties.

An inquest at Southwark coroner’s court is investigating whether air pollution in Lewisham, South East London, where Ella’s family lived, contributed to her death.

At the inquest yesterday, Ms Kissi-Debrah added: “The only thing I could have done as her mother would have been to move.

“We literally would have just moved because we were desperate – anything that could have helped.”

She also said that while the family knew about the dangers of car fumes, they had never heard of nitrogen oxides – one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.

But she said they had never even talked to doctors about moving because they had not been informed of the health risks posed by air pollution.

Ms Kissi-Debrah said environmentalists understood the problems of air pollution, but among the general population “there’s a lot of education to be had”. The teacher said that, as a result, she and doctors had been “looking in the wrong direction” for the cause of her daughter’s breathing issues.

Jocelyn Cockburn, Ms Kissi-Debrah’s lawyer and friend, said: “Despite the fact that air pollution has been recognised as a public health emergency, the day-to-day impact of air pollution on the health of millions of people… is still poorly understood.

“If this inquest does one thing, it should ensure that this issue can no longer be overlooked.”

The inquest continues.