Manchester’s ‘avoidable death’ shame will only get worse if Barton energy plant goes ahead, warns eco group

Manchester’s avoidable deaths are already double the national average – but they will only continue to rise if Barton Renewable Energy Plant goes ahead, warns an air pollution action group.

The Breathe Clean Air Group contacted Manchester City Council after MM revealed that, in 2012, male avoidable deaths in Manchester were at almost double the national average – 42% higher than the rest of the UK.

And the figures provoked group chairman Peter Kilvert to pen a letter to Councillor Paul Andrews in a bid to halt construction on the site, which was greenlit in February despite staunch opposition.

In the letter, he said: “Manchester City Council had an opportunity to stop the Barton Renewable Energy Plantby supporting Trafford Council and speaking up against granting planning permission to this proposed biomass waste incinerator, but it did nothing.

“Manchester city centre is about five miles downwind and in the fall-out zone of emissions of nitrogen dioxide and other toxic and carcinogenic particulates from this plant.

“So, you’d better brace yourself for increases in avoidable deaths in Manchester over the next 30 years.

Alternatively, you could use the influence of Manchester City Council to stop the building of this air-polluting plant, before it’s too late.”

Figures, correlated by MM, show that in 2012 there were a total of 688 male deaths from avoidable causes in the city.

This resulted in a death rate of 365 people per 100,000 population.

Despite Trafford Council and the Breathe Clean Air Group-led residents’ challenge to the controversial £70million plantbeing built near the M60, it was thrown out by the High Court.

Backed by the Environment Agency, the plant, known as the Davyhulme incinerator, has been granted a permit and construction is set to begin near Barton Bridge.

MrKilvert took issue with Councillor Andrews’ claim that ‘significant progress’ had been made in reducing mortality rates, and the ‘major achievement’ of achieving this in the face of deprivation and ill-health in the city.

Although the councillor had stressed that Manchester’s ‘high deprivation’ and ‘poor life expectancy’ in comparison to other parts of the country was an issue and accepted that ‘we need to tackle this’.

But MrKilvert believes that by supporting the Barton plant, the council are hindering not helping public health.

“The main source of nitrogen dioxide is from vehicle exhausts, but additional sources are the incineration of waste and industry,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are deprived or not.”

However, Councillor Andrews hit back claiming the council’s public health team have linked a number of conditions with air pollution that are included in the figures, such as lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

He said: “The City Council has clearly demonstrated its commitment to improving air quality over the years.

“There is a question around the relative contribution of air pollution to deaths from these causes compared with other behavioural factors (e.g. smoking).

“This means that we would need to be able to assess the role that air pollution may play in these deaths compared with other factors such as smoking.”

MrKilvert cited green group ClientEarth’s legal challenge against the UK for poor air quality, including dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide.

An Office of National Statistics (ONS) study released yesterday showed that, in 2003, 68% of European cities breached the 25-day limit on emissions and nitrogen dioxide levels in the air.

By 2011 it had dropped to 15%.

However, Manchester was among the top 10% of cities and towns tested between 2010 and 2012, albeit lower than Leeds, London and Nottingham.

Glasgow, Southampton, Sheffield and Birmingham also topped the city in the final standings.

And Councillor Andrews believes that more research is required into air pollution’s link with avoidable deaths, especially in conjunction with the role that smoking or alcohol plays – and vowed to contact ONS to try and begin a study to that end.

“Further investigation of the concept of ‘air-pollution attributable mortality’ is required before the precise contribution of air pollution to avoidable mortality can be assessed,” said the Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing.

“This would obviously have to be done on a national level so that proper comparisons can be made and our public health team will raise this with the Office for National Statistics.”

Manchester City Council maintain their attempts to control air pollution in the UK date back to the thirteenth century and that winter levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide have been reduced by more than 95% in recent years.

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