Ella grew up near one of London’s busiest roads, where air quality frequently fell below UK standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, Ella died following a severe asthma attack in February 2013. The coroner argues that the UK’s PM2.5 norms should follow the WHO guidelines at the minimum, and that adverse effects of air pollution are currently not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical and nursing professionals.
The UK legal limit for PM2.5 is 25 µg/m³, the same as for the EU). In comparison, the WHO guidelines state the annual mean should not exceed 10 µg/m³.
The UK governments has recently responded, promising they will launch a public consultation early next year on new legal targets for particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution, with the aim of enshrining the new targets in law by October 2022. Additionally, they will take action to increase public awareness around air pollution, and invest an extra £6m for local councils to improve air quality.
Katie Nield, lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth is not impressed: “The coroner couldn’t have been clearer on the need to align UK law with the World Health Organization guidelines on PM2.5. He said it would save lives. Yet the government has totally disregarded this. What they are announcing today to deal with this lethal pollutant is nothing but old commitments repackaged. This is a disgrace given what happened to Ella and what continues to happen to children and adults across the country because of toxic air. If the prime minister really wants to make the Environment Bill a lodestar, his government has to massively step up.“