RCPCH launches action in support of the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill

15 February 2023 marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. Ella was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Since her death, Ella’s mother Rosamund has campaigned tirelessly for clean air to become a human right.
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On 24 February 2023, a bill known as Ella’s Law was due to be read in the House of Commons, unfortunately, the bill was not read and we are waiting for a new reading date to be announced. If passed, the bill would require the Government to act to bring air quality in every community up to the minimum WHO standards and establish the right to breathe clean air as a basic human right.  

Air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK every year and 86% of our cities exceed recommended limits for particulate matter. We know that air pollution is very bad for our health generally and is linked to cancer, asthma, diabetes, obesity and dementia. For those of us working in child health, we know the effects of air pollution start before birth and are most pronounced in communities that experience deprivation. 

As we advocate for children and young people's health and wellbeing, we have a responsibility to address the impact of climate change, which is described by the World Health Organisation as the "defining health challenge of our time".

In support of the Bill, Dr Camilla Kingdon President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: 

Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, with children being particularly vulnerable. All children deserve the opportunity for the best chance for a healthy start in life. Exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy and early childhood can have harmful and irreversible effects on the development of the lungs and other organs leading to potential long-term health effects well into adulthood. 

Evidence of the broader impact of air pollution on children’s lives is becoming increasingly clear showing it is likely a significant driver of poverty and widening health inequalities with emergency admissions for asthma strongly associated with deprivation and poverty. 

Today marks the 10th anniversary of a tragic day for Ella’s family. As a paediatrician, I am committed to learning and believe no other child in the UK should be allowed to suffer in the way Ella did. I encourage RCPCH members to use this moment to understand the authority of the paediatric voice in discussions about air pollution and join together in supporting this bill.

While we wait for a new reading date to be announced the e-action to support Ella’s law and call for Government action for clean air has been closed.