Dutch fuel traders warned about exporting polluting petrol to Africa

Cars parked under the shade of a carport. Photo: Depositphotos.com
Cars parked under the shade of a carport. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dutch oil companies are continuing to produce fuel for Africa which contains high levels of polluting and cancer-causing chemicals, despite being warned to stop, transport ministry inspectors said on Thursday.

The ILT has declined to name names because, the agency says, the issue cuts across the entire sector. ‘We are going to remind the entire sector, the refineries, the chemicals companies that make the products used in the fuel and the traders who actually produce it about their duty of care,’ spokesman Frank Peen told broadcaster NOS.

Car fuel produced in the Netherlands for the African market contains high quantities of benzene, sulphur and manganese in particular, all of which are known to be dangerous to both the environment and to public health.

But oil companies and traders, the ILT said, should be exporting fuel which meets EU standards to limit damage to both the environment and health.

In 2018, the ILT published a report on the export of polluting fuels to African countries which showed how the problem was being made worse by the export of old vehicles from the EU. These vehicles are unable to process the chemicals in the fuel, which only increases the resulting pollution, the report said.

A second report last year focused on the second hand car trade with Africa, which is dominated by vehicles no longer welcome on European roads. Since the start of this year, however, 15 West African countries have imposed import controls on old cars and improved fuel quality in an effort to improve air quality, the ILT said.

Environmental legislation

The agency is now planning to use Dutch environmental legislation to force oil companies to export fuel which meets EU standards.

The law states that it is illegal to bring dangerous products to market, spokesman Frank Peen told broadcaster NOS. ‘If you know about dangers some chemicals present, then you have to take measures to reduce the risks as much as possible.’

‘We consider it important that the standards we have in Europe to protect people and the environment should also apply to the products we export outside Europe,’ he said. ‘At the moment, oil companies are not doing this.’

The sector organisation VNPI said it will respond later on Thursday, NOS said.

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