The devastating long term toll of the summer’s moorland wildfires in Greater Manchester has been revealed as researchers link the impact on air quality to serious health conditions.
The huge blazes at Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor are likely to have had a shocking impact on the air breathed by people living in Manchester, according to new analysis by the leading think tank for the North of England.
Levels of particulate matter linked to serious conditions such as asthma, lung cancer and infant mortality were extremely high during the period of the fires, research published by the Institute for Public Policy Research North reveals.
When the fires were at their height in the week following June 24, the legal limit for daily average exposure to particulate matter - 50ppm - was breached on five occasions in different sites across Greater Manchester.
Monitoring stations also registered extremely high individual spikes in excess of 150ppm.
These concerns follow previous research by IPPR North which found Greater Manchester has lethal and illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution.
The IPPR North’s briefing paper, ‘Natural Assets North: Valuing our Northern Uplands’, argues that policymakers need to turn their attention to the ‘natural assets’ of the north to ensure the potential of places like Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor is realised.
Jack Hunter, report author and research fellow at IPPR North, said: “The impact of the fires at Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor provide a timely reminder that we must not take the North’s natural assets for granted.
“If we don’t value the natural environment properly, the consequences for people, the environment and the Northern Powerhouse economy can be disastrous.”
He added that natural assets underpin the economy of the so-called Northern Powerhouse, and this needed to be reflected in future decision making. “In the next phase of the Northern Powerhouse and in the face of climate change, policymakers need to put the natural environment right at the heart of decisions about the future of the North of England.
“To fail to do so would be tragically short-sighted. The wellbeing of people in the North, and the health of its economy, is inescapably linked to the natural environment around us.
“The blazes at Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor damaged thousands of acres of moorland and emergency services and had a devastating impact on wildlife.”
Emergency services spent weeks tackling the fires with the help of the military.