Tuesday 05 July 2022

Steel industry dust increases risk of cancer and harms children: report

The Tata Steel plant in IJmuiden. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dust emissions from the steel industry in the IJmond region contain a damaging amount of substances and metals that can cause cancer, a new report has found.

The report by the public health agency RIVM comes ahead of a parliamentary debate next week about the future of Tata Steel in the region.

The institute examined 29 locations in IJmond, with samples taken closest to the Tata Steel complex showing the highest concentrations of harmful substances, particularly in Wijk aan Zee.

‘We found that the carcinogenic substances and metals in the dust is significantly higher than in places where there is no steel industry. That increases the risk of cancer,’ researcher Janneke Elberse told broadcaster NOS.

The risk is greater for children because they are lighter and more likely to ingest the harmful substances by putting their hands to their mouths, she said.

The concentration of lead was also higher in Wijk aan Zee compared to other places like Beverwijk, Velsen-Noord and IJmuiden. Long-term exposure to lead, even in small concentrations, can affect children’s IQ.

The legal norms for extra risks for cancer in the one to 12 age group are not exceeded, but, Elberse said, ‘these amounts should not be here’. She also noted that locals in IJmond are exposed to more harmful influences than were investigated, such as bad air quality.

People who live near Tata Steel have been complaining for years about the dust generated by the steel works which they find on their window sills, gardens and streets.

A recent report by health board GGD, which scrapped the name Tata Steel from the final version for fear of litigation, found a 25% higher incidence of lung cancer in the area around the industrial complex.

Next week’s debate will focus on the continuation of Tata Steel in IJmond. Billions are thought to be needed to make the industry sustainable, an amount the current owners are unlikely to want to spend.

In a reaction to NOS, Tata Steel said it ‘would study the report’. It also said it is already investing millions in the prevention of pollution in the area, but, Elberse said, that is not something that is borne out by the research. ‘The presence of carcinogenic substances and lead is structural,’ she said.

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