Health and safety authorities in Kennemerland have ordered an independent enquiry following allegations at the weekend that a link between Tata Steel in IJmuiden and a greater incidence of lung cancer among people in nearby Beverwijk was removed from a report by the local health board.
Documents requested by the Noordhollands Dagblad under the freedom of information act showed that Tata Steel was mentioned in connection with a higher number of lung cancer cases in the region in earlier drafts of the report but that the name had been taken out of the final version.
This was done on the orders of health board director Bert van de Velde who reportedly told researchers that ‘the name Tata is not to appear’, the paper said.
The incidence of lung and skin cancer in the Kennemerland region was found to be 5% higher than the national average. Locals have for years campaigned against the steel giant which they claim has been dumping dangerous chemicals into the air and soil of a densely populated area, endangering their health.
The health board said in a reaction to the revelation that the decision not to name names had been taken because the report only looked into the increase of cancers in the area and not into possible causes.
Van de Velden denied that the health board had been put under pressure by Tata Steel. ‘We do research, pure and simple. Our people do this according to their conscience and to the proper scientific standard,’ he told broadcaster NOS.
Tata Steel denied any involvement with the report. ‘We respect independent research. It would be very strange if we tried to influence that,’ a spokesman told the broadcaster.
Lawyer Bénédicte Ficq, who is representing a group of locals in a court case against the factory, said the findings were ‘shocking’ and said she wants the public prosecution office to include them in its investigation of Tata Steel. ‘I think it’s remarkable to say the least that something that was included in the report suddenly disappears,’ she told NOS.
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