Fed-up locals threaten court action over Tata Steel pollution

The inhabitants of the seaside village of Wijk aan Zee are threatening to take the Noord Holland provincial authorities to court for turning a blind eye to what they say are unlawful emissions by nearby Tata Steel and Harsco, the Volkskrant reports. Action group IJmondig has engaged law firm Prakken d’Oliveira in a bid to force the authorities to act. In a letter to the province, the law firm writes that ‘residents have been continually exposed to unlicenced emissions, grey and orange dust clouds, a rain of graphite and other deposits’. Among the health problems cited are respiratory complaints, headaches, nausea and concentration problems. A spokesman for Tata Steel said the legal move is surprising as IJmondig and the company are in talks to limit the impact of its industrial activities. The Volkskrant said the spokesman is referring to a graphite soot chamber due for completion in 2020 which Tata Steel claims will solve the problem. Effective However, IJmondig lawyer Bondine Kloostra said the province granted permission to build the chamber without a proper investigation into whether or not it would be effective against the pollution. ‘It’s being used as an excuse so the company can claim it is taking action,’ Bondine told the paper. Harsco, an American company which is producing the graphite by processing Tata Steel slag, was last year revealed to have worked without the required environmental permit between 2014 and 2016. Tata Steel itself is accused by the law firm of breaching ‘emission limits’. Noord Holland, which said it would investigate the claims, has four weeks in which to respond to the letter.  More >

Check your blood pressure: Hartstichting

Heart health organisation Hartstichting is starting an awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of high blood pressure. The organisation will be making blood pressure measuring equipment available at various public locations, such as libraries and supermarkets, between May 27 and June 8. Advice on a healthier life style will also be available. The organisation said many people have no idea they are suffering from high blood pressure which can affect the heart, brain and other organs and lead to strokes and heart attacks. The Hartstichting found that one in three people in the Netherlands between the ages of 30 and 70 have high blood pressure or are taking medication to combat it. Four in 10 of people suffering from high blood pressure in this age group are unaware their blood pressure is too high. ‘High blood pressure doesn’t always present symptoms but it is doing damage all the same, for instance to blood vessels, the heart and the brain,’ family doctor and Hartstichting spokesman David Smeekes told broadcaster NOS. That is why measuring blood pressure should become just as normal as going to the dentist for a half-yearly check-up, Smeekes said. The Hartstichting estimates that 6,000 new cases of heart disease and 1,500 deaths could be avoided annually if the population’s blood pressure were to drop, something that could be achieved by cutting down on smoking, salty food and by exercising more.  More >

Sexually abusive trauma gets sack

A Twente hospital has sacked a trauma surgeon for sexual misconduct in the second major #metoo scandal in the Netherlands this week. The 64-year old surgeon was dismissed from his post at the Medisch Spectrum Twente earlier this month following 18 accusations of sexual misconduct and verbal aggression from staff including nurses, interns and secretaries. None of the accusers have filed police complaints as yet. In a letter from the hospital to the medical inspectorate quoted by the Volkskrant, hospital offcials say the incidents which cover the period between 2014 and now ‘may well have had a negative influence on the quality of care at the hospital’. The surgeon, who was given a prestigious royal distinction for his work, has admitted having being verbally aggressive but denies abuse of power and being a sex pest. ‘Some of the accusations are true. I can be rough verbally. That can have an effect and I am not always aware of it,’ he told the paper. ‘But if people start to accuse you of sexual misconduct then, as a man, you are playing a match with a 5-0 disadvantage.’ He also denies endangering the quality of care. ‘The whole country knows my name. I am one of the leading trauma surgeons. If it is said the quality of care has been compromised it will have to be proven.’ Inspectors Staff have also said their accusations were not properly handled by their superiors. Healthcare inspection body IGJ, which will investigate the matter said that ‘to deliver good and safe care the culture has to be right,’ a spokesperson said. The sacking of the Twente surgeon comes in the wake of news this week that a law professor at the University of Amsterdam was sacked at the end of 2018 because of sexual misconduct. The professor, who can only be referred to by his initials R.B. following a court decision, was known as a 'flamboyant, charismatic man with a lust for life,' the paper said.  More >

More cases of childhood diabetes

The number of children diagnosed with diabetes in the Netherlands has doubled over the past 30 years, according to research by paediatrician Angelien Spaans-Hummelink. 'The research stemmed from a feeling we had that more children were being diagnosed with diabetes,' she told local broadcaster RTV Noord. There are some 6,000 children with type 1 diabetes in the Netherlands, and 500 to 550 new cases are identified every year. Spaans-Hummelink said there is no direct reason about why the number has gone up but says she suspects there is a link with other auto-immune diseases. 'We know that children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have another auto-immune disease such as an over or under-active thyroid or a gluten allergy,' she said.  More >

Cancer patients 'need better aftercare'

Nearly all women who undergo treatment breast cancer are left with lingering health problems such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating, a survey has found. Pins and needles were another common after-effect of cancer treatment, according to the research carried out by the national cancer centre IKNL and research institution NIVEL. Researchers interviewed 404 women who had operations for primary breast cancer between 2012 and 2016 about their health in the five years since they were diagnosed. Overall 93% reported problems with their health after treatment, most commonly from chemotherapy. Previous research by IKNL and the Dutch federation of cancer patients' organisations concluded that there was not enough post-operative care for the 800,000 cancer survivors in the Netherlands. The latest study said that better awareness of the problems that cancer patients experience would enable oncologists to devise better post-treatment plans. 'The balance has to be struck between the risk of the disease returning and the chance of later health complications.'  More >

Little Willies recalled for hard pieces

A batch of vegetarian sausages named Little Willies has been recalled after the manufacturer warned they may contain small pieces of plastic packaging. De Vegetarische Slager said a production fault meant the sausages may have been contaminated and urged customers to take them back to the shop. The affected packs have a 'best before' date between April 10 and May 7. The Lincolnshire-style soy-based sausages have also been recalled in Britain, where they are sold in supermarkets under the same name. Customers can claim a refund by sending an email to the manufacturer at info@devegetarischeslager.nl with a photo of the packaging with the best before date showing. Alternatively, they can post the empty package in an unstamped envelope to De Vegetarische Slager, Antwoordnummer 10356, 4800 VB Breda.   More >

Pharmacists 'screamed at, threatened, hit'

Het Gooi, home to some of the richest neighbourhoods in the Netherlands, may not have the country’s happiest pharmacists. According to the NOS, 24 stores have closed their doors on Wednesday for a morning of protest at the aggression they experience from their customers. ‘A colleague from Weesp was recently hit in the face because a certain drug brand was no longer covered by insurance,’ Bernadine Armbrust, a pharmacist from Hilversum, told the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. She said her protest had a dual function: to ask clients to behave differently, but also to ask insurers and politicians to take note of the effects of limited supplies of insurance-funded medicines in the Netherlands. ‘There was already a lot of frustration among clients because brands were no longer covered and they would then have to switch,’ she added. ‘But then you also get drug shortages.’ Gerben Klein Nulent, chair of the KNMP pharmacists’ trade association, told the NOS the frustrations are not only in Het Gooi. ‘Screaming, threats and hitting have become daily events, and we find this unacceptable,’ he reportedly said. His organisation found that last year, medicines were not available for 769 prescriptions. Zorgverzekeraars Nederland told the NOS that it was not responsible for client frustrations. ‘Shortages are an international problem, and the causes are outside the Netherlands,' it reportedly said. 'It’s not about the coverage policy of health insurers as the demonstrating pharmacists suggest.’ Earlier this year, a ‘just be nice’ (‘doeslief’) campaign also claimed that 8% of public transport workers are spat at each year, and 72% of traffic wardens regularly ‘get the middle finger’. Posters from this campaign were displayed in the windows of at least one of the protesting pharmacies.  More >

Daycare group to ban non-vaccinated kids

A large Dutch childcare group has gone public in saying that it will ban children who have not be vaccinated against mumps, measles and German measles from July 1, broadcaster NOS said. The Berend Botje daycare group, which looks after over 3,000 children in Noord-Holland province, has told parents that children who have not been inoculated will be sent home after that date. The aim is to protect children of pre-inoculation age. There have been four cases of measles at a daycare centre in The Hague in recent weeks. Several are under 14 months old, the age at which children are vaccinated against the three diseases. So far around 100 daycare groups in the Netherlands have said that they will not accept children who have not been inoculated, but Berend Botje is thought to be the first one which has said it will ban children who already use its facilities. It is currently illegal to discriminate against non-vaccinated children under discrimination legislation but legislation to make a ban possible is currently going through parliament. Parents Berend Botje looks after children in a variety of age groups at 50 different locations across the province. So far around 10 parents have asked for further information about the ban, which will come into effect on July 1, the organisation told NOS. At the moment 90.2% of Dutch children are vaccinated against potentially serious illnesses such as measles, polio and whooping cough. This is below the level of 95% the World Health Organisation considers safe. The last measles epidemic in the Netherlands hit the Dutch Bible belt in 2013. In total, 2,600 people were diagnosed with measles and the outbreak was concentrated in families with young children who had not been vaccinated for religious reasons. One girl, who had not been vaccinated, died.  More >