Official limits on permitted volumes of air pollution have been stretched by the environment and transport ministries under pressure from the construction sector, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.
A number of building projects have been halted since 2002 because of fears about the air quality.
But now, experts from the TNO scientific research agency say the government has changed the way air quality standards are calculated to benefit builders.
For example, says the Volkskrant, ministers are proposing that measurements are taken at four metres above ground level rather than the current 1.5 metres which children’s ‘breathing height’.
And since 2005, high levels of pollution in one area are allowed to be offset against low levels in another.
The EU set official limits for the amount of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and other air pollutants in 1999 and these were incorporated into Dutch law in 2001.
However, the senate is due to vote on plans to apply these limits only to major building projects. ‘The new law is designed to allow building, but is not good enough on health issues,’ said Labour senator Kim Putters.
Joris Wijnhoven of environmental group Milieudefensie says the new law is the ‘biggest conjuring trick of all time’.
The transport ministry said it has not exterted any pressure on research institutes to make lower calculations. However the ministries involved have ‘urged them to rethink and work out the correct methods and calculations because air quality problems need to be tackled quickly,’ the paper reported a spokesman as saying.
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