Moorland fires air quality impact shown
17 December 2018, 05:51 | Updated: 17 December 2018, 05:53
Huge fires that ravaged moorland near Greater Manchester this summer likely had a "shocking" impact on air quality, according to new analysis.
Devastating blazes at Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor were battled by firefighters and soldiers for days in June and July this year.
Researchers at IPPR North said "extremely high" levels of "particulate matter" were recorded during the period of the fires.
The think tank's Natural Assets North: Valuing our Northern Uplands briefing paper said that in the week following June 24, when the fires were at their height, the legal limit for daily 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.
IPPR North said particulate matter is linked to asthma, lung cancer and infant mortality.
Its analysis follows on from previous research by the think tank which found Greater Manchester has "lethal and illegal" levels of NO2 air pollution.
Report author and research fellow Jack Hunter said the well-being of people living in the North, and the health of its economy, was "inescapably" linked to the natural environment.
"Our upland areas, for example, play a huge role in terms of carbon storage, water supply, recreation and tourism. Our towns and cities would not function without them," he 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."
Fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill, near Bolton, were declared as major incidents as flames spread over dry ground during the summer's soaring temperatures.
Around 100 troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland were involved in the operation to tackle the Saddleworth blaze which raged for several days.
Greater Manchester Police later said they were treating the fire as arson.
A 20-year-old man who was arrested by Lancashire Police on suspicion of arson in relation to the Winter Hill blaze was released under investigation.
Mr Hunter said policymakers needed 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," he said.