Wednesday 22 September 2021

Tata Steel locals set up own research project into health risks

The Tata Steel plant in IJmuiden. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Three foundations, supported by several wealthy individuals, are starting their own investigation into the increased risk of cancer and other diseases in people living close to the Tata Steel works in IJmuiden, the AD reported on Wednesday.

The group argues that the public health institute RIVM and regional health board have been influenced by the pro Tata Steel lobby group and have left key questions unanswered, the paper said.

In June 2020, for example, a report by the GGD regional health board said that the incidence of lung cancer in Beverwijk, a town near the plant, was 25% higher than the national average, and suggested a potential link with air pollution.

But this July, local paper Noordhollands Dagblad revealed that the GGD director had ensured that the name Tata Steel was removed from the final version.

In April 2021, the RIVM reported that acute health complaints – such as headaches, stinging eyes and nausea – are more common close to the plant than in other parts of the Netherlands.

The report was based on information from local doctors and the health board but did not make a link with Tata Steel, arguing instead that other factors, including lifestyle, could be at play.

The local organisations are also angry that yet another report into the impact of dust in the air on health has not yet been published. The results, based on 420 samples, are in but publication has been delayed until after a parliamentary debate on the future of Tata Steel scheduled for September 9, the AD said.

That report does not look at the source of the dust because ‘it was not in the assignment’ even though ‘it could be relevant’, the RIVM has said.

Lobby

‘The RIVM, health board and the province are far too sensitive towards the Tata Steel lobby,’ said Bloemendaal millionaire Jan de Jonge, who is backing the research.

The project, which will be carried out by an independent bureau, will involve measuring air quality by drone close to the Tata Steel chimneys and using underwater robots to take samples.

‘We have been asking for years where all this is coming from,’ said Ellen Windemuth, of the IJmondig foundation. ‘Every province in the Netherlands is doing its bit to tackle industrial pollution apart from here. What is happening here is a scandal.’

A number of locals are also now taking legal action against Tata Steel for endangering human and animal health.

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