No Promise to Lower Legal Levels of Air Pollution from Government, Despite Risks

Earlier this year, nine-year-old schoolgirl Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died because of constant exposure to air pollution in London. The girl was brought to hospital several times and suffered from multiple seizures before she succumbed to an asthma attack. Ella’s case is the first of its kind in the UK to have been caused by air pollution.

Inner South London coroner Philip Barlow revealed that Ella was regularly exposed to high levels of PM or particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution. The young girl breathed in toxic air at levels that significantly exceeded the WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines. This prompted the coroner to call for a reduction of the legal limits of particulate pollution in the UK.

Additionally, the coroner believes that Ella’s mother was not provided enough knowledge about how toxic air can aggravate asthma.

Currently, the UK’s fine particulate matter legal limits are higher than the WHO’s recommendation: annual means of 25 µg/m3 and 40µg/m3 for PM2.5 and PM10 respectively. The World Health Organization’s limits are at 10µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 20µg/m3 for PM10.

Air Pollution
Air Pollution

Government response

Despite the incident, the UK government has not agreed to bring down the legal limits as recommended by the coroner. Instead, they chose to schedule a January 2022 public consultation for the ongoing issue, with the goal of issuing new targets for air pollution by October 2022.

The UK government also reiterated that they follow the PM2.5 WHO guidelines and use them as a basis for developing their targets. In addition, they had the Office for Health Promotion prioritizing and looking into how reducing PM2.5 exposure can benefit public health.

Other government-led campaigns and actions include additional funding for public awareness on the dangers of air pollution, determining asthma environmental triggers using NHS England and Improvement data, setting a reduction target for population exposure, and better-personalized care within the community.

A representative of the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK said the government’s actions are not enough and only tackle a small percentage of the dangerous health effects of NO2 polluted air. They argue that what’s needed is ambitious, aggressive action so there will be no more early deaths like Ella’s. The priority should be to protect the UK population, especially the children. The current commitments, according to the representative, are nothing but improved versions of old actions. The campaign against air pollution should be progressive.

This is not to say, however, that the UK government is not aware of how vast the problem is and how much work has yet to be done. They know that they need to speed up their efforts in cleaning up toxic air. If they fail to reduce pollution levels on time, they may get a formal letter from the European Commission asking them to correct the situation as soon as possible.

Vehicle emissions and their part

The UK has had over-the-limit toxic air levels for nearly a decade already. Nitrogen dioxide amounts have been illegally high, specifically the ones released by diesel vehicles.  This is the reason why the diesel emission scandal is a major issue for the government.

Vehicle emissions
Vehicle emissions

In 2015, environment and transport authorities in the United States caught Volkswagen lying about a defeat device that they installed on their diesel vehicles. Dubbed the Dieselgate scandal, it started a series of investigations that have affected multiple automakers and continued through the years.

The defeat devices found in VW vehicles were used to cheat on emissions tests. During testing, the vehicles emitted safe levels of NOx or nitrogen oxides. When driven in real-world driving conditions, though, the emissions were way above the legal limit. After Volkswagen in the US, the UK, and Europe started their own investigations and uncovered defeat devices on other vehicles including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Audi, Porsche, Nissan, Peugeot, Vauxhall, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Suzuki, and Jeep.

Nitrogen oxides are gaseous elements that are a combination of nitric acid and nitrogen dioxide. When they react, they form smog, acid rain, and ground-level ozone. They destroy air quality and have negative effects on human health. They also contain particulate matter. NOx played a big role in what happened to Ella.

As a result of the diesel emissions scandal, the affected car manufacturers have been paying fines and handing claims to customers. Many of them have also had to recall thousands of the affected vehicles so these can be replaced or retrofitted with safer, newer engines.

What to do to help

If you think your vehicle is fitted with a defeat device, you can do your part in helping the campaign against toxic air by filing a diesel compensation claim. Once you’ve verified from your manufacturer’s website that your vehicle is affected, find an experienced solicitor or a team of emission compensation experts. Working with them will help you properly go through the long and tedious process.

Get in touch with the team of diesel emission compensation experts at if you want higher chances of filing a successful claim.

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