Dutch health council calls for tough rules to boost air quality

The Dutch health council has called on the government to bring in much tougher rules on air quality and to follow the guidelines set down by the World Health Organisation rather than the EU.

The health council is the government’s most important advisory body on health issues.

It claims that while pollution levels are within EU limits in most of the country, people are still being made ill by exposure to fine dust particulates, ozone and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can cause or worsen lung, heart and artery problems and are responsible for some 12,000 premature deaths a year, the council says.

Current progress on cutting pollution means the WHO limits should be reached by 2030 but for real health benefits, pollution should be reduced still further, and this means extra measures have to be taken, the council said.

In particular, traffic pollution and the release of ammonia from factory farms should be cut back, the council said.

Last month, environmental campaign group Milieudefensie lost its case to force the government to take action to combat air pollution when the court said the government does not have to comply with WHO standards.

The organisation said on Tuesday it is going to appeal against that decision. ‘Everybody has the right to breath clean air,’ spokesman Anne Knol said.’The state is required by law to ensure it and this is why we are taking the case to appeal.’

The government is due to present its plans for improving air quality at the end of this year.