Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Mayor of London statement on tenth anniversary of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death [February 2023]

The press release issued by the Mayor of London on 15 February 2023.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Today marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of nine-year-old Londoner Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. Ella was a bright, happy, energetic schoolgirl who dreamed of becoming an air ambulance doctor, but whose life was cruelly cut short by an invisible killer – our toxic air. While Ella is exceptional in being the only person with air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate, she is sadly not alone in having suffered the terrible effects of toxic air. Across our city today children are being poisoned and lives are being blighted because the air we breathe every day isn’t as safe as it should be.

The science shows air pollution is causing young Londoners to grow-up with stunted lungs, it’s triggering a host of debilitating illnesses – from lung cancer and heart disease, to asthma and dementia – and it’s leading to the premature deaths of around 4,000 people in our capital every year. We also know that it’s minority communities and the poorest Londoners, who are least likely to own a car, who are being hit hardest.

The horrific ongoing impact of air pollution on London’s children weighed heavily on my thinking when I took the decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone London-wide later this year. Of course, during difficult economic times this was a decision I wrestled with. But we simply cannot ignore the human cost of ditching or delaying this expansion. How many more Londoners can afford to have their lungs irreparably damaged by air pollution? How many more young children are we willing to let inhale tiny toxic particles? How many more families – like Rosamund’s – must know the pain and anguish of losing a loved one before we do something?

As Mayor, I’m not prepared to have on my conscience the early death or life-limiting illness of another Londoner when such an outcome is preventable. The air we breathe should sustain us, not suffocate us or make us sick. Those who are trying to block further action to clean up our air are no different from those in the past who argued against measures to protect children from tobacco smoke and to those delaying action on climate change. Some opponents to the ULEZ expansion deny the science around air quality just like some did around smoking and climate change.

Ella’s memory, and the tireless work of her mother Rosamund, motivates me to continue doing everything I possibly can to clean up London’s air and I will not rest until that aspiration has become a reality. No one should go through the devasting loss that Ella’s family went through. At the very least, we owe it to them to put public health before political expediency and to make sure we do not condemn another generation of London’s children to a lifetime of pollution and ill-health. That can and must be Ella’s legacy.”