Tougher legal limits have been demanded in Parliament on pollutants following the tragic death of a nine-year-old schoolgirl from Lewisham who was exposed to toxic air.

Peers have urged the Government as part of landmark environmental reforms to set a target for curbing particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution, which is at least as strict as World Health Organisation guidance.

It follows the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013.

See more: Girl with asthma was 'living on a knife edge' amid pollution

The coroner’s report, following a second inquest which ruled that excessive air pollution contributed to her death, called for legally-binding goals for dangerous pollutants that are in line with the WHO.

The call for action in the Environment Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords, follows a long campaign by Ella’s mother, Rosamund.

Earlier this year, Rosamund wrote a letter to Boris Johnson which stated that the government "have not prioritised health in terms of policies to tackle air pollution".

“I am adamant that lessons will be learned from Ella’s death and that other families are spared the heartache that my family and I have suffered," she said.

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Following Britain’s departure from the EU, the legislation will allow the Government to set long-term targets for the natural environment, including on air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction.

Highlighting Ella’s case at Westminster, Labour peer Lord Kennedy of Southwark said: “The fact that this poor child suffered a terrible death by breathing in toxic particles should be a matter of concern to all of us.”

Labour frontbencher Baroness Hayman of Ullock said: “Air pollution has been breaching legal limits across the UK since 2010 and is recognised by the Government to be the single largest environmental risk to health in the UK.”

She added: “This Bill gives us the opportunity to address this crisis of pollution and set the UK on a pathway to become a global leader in environmental protection.”

But she warned without setting the PM2.5 air quality target “we will waste this opportunity”.

Lady Hayman added: “The coroner’s conclusion that exposure to excessive air pollution contributed to the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013 has underlined the need for all levels of government to do much more to tackle the deadly scourge of air pollution.”

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said: “We know that if you don’t have targets for reducing something it’s likely to not get done and so if we are going to clean up our toxic air this Bill has to set binding targets.”

She added: “Ella is the first person to ever have air pollution as a cause of death and it is now official that Ella’s painfully cruel death was unnecessary, preventable and should never happen again to any child or adult.”

Independent crossbencher and cancer expert Baroness Finlay of Llandaff said: “The dignified campaign of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s mother following her daughter’s tragic death has shown us why health must be at the centre of air pollution strategies.”

She added: “There is no safe level of pollution exposure. Research over the last five years has shown that air pollutants reach every organ of the body with deleterious effects.”

Responding to the debate, Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith of Richmond said: “The death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah was an absolute tragedy and I’d like to pay tribute to her family and friends, particularly her mother, who have all campaigned so tirelessly on this issue and continue to do so.”

He told peers: “The Government recognises the importance of reducing concentrations of PM2.5 and the impact that this has on our health.”

This was why there was a requirement in the Bill to set a specific target, but he said the actions needed to meet the current WHO guideline level “are not yet fully understood, nor is the impact these measures would have on people’s lives”.

Until this work was completed and consulted on “it would not be appropriate to write this limit into law”, he said.

Lord Goldsmith added: “The target is not being ruled out… there is work to be done.

“I don’t think it’s right for us to set a target at the stroke of a pen that would impact millions of people and thousands of businesses without first being clear with people and understanding what would be needed.”