As firefighters continue to battle the moorland fires in Greater Manchester and beyond, residents have been told to keep their windows and doors closed to keep out toxic fumes being emitted from burning wood.
Now Trafford's Breathe Clean Air Group has written an open letter to Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and the leaders of the ten GM councils, including Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, calling for them to declare Greater Manchester a 'biomass free zone'.
Biomass basically is about burning waste wood, amongst other things, and the Clean Air Group is citing new research carried out in Sweden which shows that even having a wood burner at home, never mind huge forest fires, can cause asthma and increase the risk of heart disease and dementia.
The toxicity comes via PM2.5 particles which are present in vehicle exhaust fumes and wood and biomass burning. Now, researchers at the University in the northern Swedish town of Umea have shown, over a 15 year study, the ill-effects of wood burning...
"We have seen that people who live in areas where wood-burning stoves are common, run a greater risk of being affected, and that also goes for people who live next door to someone who uses a wood-burning stove" said researcher Anna Oudin.
Residents living in areas with the highest rate of smoke from wood fires suffered dementia, or dementia-related diseases, some 30% higher compared to other residents in Umea. In households that had their own wood-burning stove the risk was 70% cent higher.
The Clean Air Group has long campaigned against Peel Holdings' Barton Renewable Energy Plant in Davyhulme which will burn biomass and waste wood, arguing that it will have ill-health effects on residents in Salford, Trafford and Manchester.*
"We've known about the risks of dementia from particulate matter for some time, so we are pleased that the new research confirms this" says Peter Kilvert, Chair of the Clean Air Group "It's a timely warning to our civic leaders to get to grips with the major industrial polluters, and domestic wood-burners, not just motorists."
In the open letter to Andy Burnham and the ten other GM leaders, the Group warns of the dangers of biomass heat and power systems and Energy from Waste (EfW) projects, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) promoted a £15million European loan programme to subsidise renewable energy projects.
"When it's recently been announced that Manchester's air is more toxic than London's, and Greater Manchester has just staged a Clean Air Day and about to stage a Green Summit, it appears criminal that our leaders intend to pollute Greater Manchester's air even more with incinerated wood and waste emissions" says Peter Kilvert.
While the European loan scheme will support different type of 'renewable' energy schemes, such as solar, wind and hydro projects, it will also include burning biomass and burning waste.
The European Union classifies biomass schemes as 'low carbon' but the Group states that "scientists have proven that burning wood produces much more carbon dioxide than burning coal...Even worse, burning biomass produces masses of tiny Particulate Matter that when breathed in, can be absorbed into the bloodstream, poisoning the body's organs. This can lead to poor lung function, respiratory disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and dementia. Children are at greater risk as their lungs have not fully developed."
The Group also points out that Public Health England has still not released its report after four years, about how dangerous it is to live near an incinerator...
"We want Andy Burnham to give the residents of Greater Manchester a pledge that this new funding will not be provided for projects that produce toxic air and worsen the already dangerous levels of air pollution" insists Peter Kilvert "In fact, in the longer term, we have asked for, and have been ignored so far, that Andy Burnham declares Greater Manchester a Biomass Free Zone..."
The full open letter to Andy Burnham and the GM Leaders...
Re. MORE TOXIC GREATER MANCHESTER AIR LOOMS.
I am extremely disappointed that you can boast about the new European Regional Development Fund loan that the Greater Manchester Combine Authority will lend to Developers who will use it to provide BIOMASS burning heat and power schemes and Energy from Waste projects.
I know that you know that such schemes will emit airborne carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds and heavy metals that will have a serious ill-health impact on the local population.
You have just run Greater Manchester Clean Air Day and will also run a Green Summit which recognises the already over-polluted air in the Greater Manchester Region. In fact recent reports say that Manchester's air is now more polluted than London's air.
I am appealing to you to pledge NOT to use this European fund for supporting Biomass schemes and Energy from Waste projects in Greater Manchester.
I also request that you declare Greater Manchester a BIOMASS FREE ZONE.
Chairman, Breathe Clean Air Group
No response has been received yet from Andy Burnham or any of the GM Leaders
For further details on the work of the Trafford Breathe Clean Air Group see previous Salford Star articles Ė click here and click here