A PAINT that makes breathing easier could be used along a stretch of motorway bordering Prestwich and Whitefield because it has the worst air quality in the North West.

Road workers will daub sections of central reservation and perimeter barriers on the M60 near junctions 17 and 18 (Simister) with the “smog-sucking” paint if a trial in Salford is successful.

Bury Council figures show the air close to junction 17 has 73 microgrammes of harmful nitrogen dioxide per square metre —almost double the safety target of 40 — making it one of the worst rates in the UK.

Prestwich is already part of an air-quality action zone, which tasks the council and the Highways Agency (HWA) to find ways to improve it.

In January, St Mary’s ward councillor Richard Baum wrote to ask HWA bosses what steps they were taking.

They sent him an action plan, which referred to the trial of the pebble dash paint in Salford after it worked well elsewhere. In a trial in Milan, the substance, called Ecopaint, improved air quality by 60 per cent near a busy motorway network.

Ecopaint works by absorbing gases from vehicle exhausts known to cause breathing problems, like nitrogen oxide.

When it rains, the chemicals wash onto embankments and fertilize plants.

It is one of several HWA initiatives aimed at preventing people developing breathing difficulties.

In 2012, HWA managers will introduce a traffic management scheme to reduce pollution levels by helping vehicles move smoothly on the M60.

To achieve that, they will add an extra lane on the M60 anti-clockwise between junctions 12 and 15 and install overhead signs between junctions eight and 18 which change speed limits when needed. A HWA spokesman said: “We have to be certain the paint is effective before it is used in Prestwich and other areas, but the trial is underway and we will monitor results before making a decision on future usage. Dealing with air quality in Prestwich is among our highest priorities and we are committed to doing everything we can to do so.”

Simister Residents’ Association chairman, Michael Slater, said: “We are delighted at this idea. If we can achieve the same gains as the Italian trial did, it has to be great news for the area. The residents of Droughts Lane suffer the worst of the problem as they are right near the motorway.”

Cllr Baum added: “We will wait to see if this paint will do its job. Any initiative that works to improve the air quality for the people of Prestwich should be welcomed.”