Netherlands will only meet WHO clean air standards in 2030: Health Council

If no further measures are taken, the Netherlands will only meet the World Health Organization's clean air advice standards by 2030. And even then, the air won't be exactly healthy, the Health Council wrote in a new report. The "blanket of pollution" will cause major health problems in the Netherlands for years to come, according to the Health Council, RTL Nieuws reports.

The Council calls on State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven of Infrastructure and Water Management to come up with an "ambitious plan" to improve air quality in the country. Extra measures are needed to reduce the concentrations of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide and the emission of ammonia. 

Over the past decades, air quality in the Netherlands did improve considerably to the point where European standards are met almost everywhere in the country. But still around 12 thousand people annually die prematurely due to air pollution, according to the Health Council. 

It would be better if the Netherlands meets the stricter standards of the WHO, though the country has a long way to go before that can be achieved. But even then, the breathing air won't be healthy. "Even at concentrations below these values, health damage occurs", the Council writes. 

The Health Council wants people who live in areas with a lot of air pollution, such as around busy roads, to receive additional protection. This can be done by, among other things, implementing environmental zones and reducing speed limits. 

In December environmental group Milieudefensie lost a lawsuit in which the organization tried to force the Dutch State to meet the WHO standards on air quality. The court ruled that the government is taking sufficient measures, and noted that there is no treaty provision that obliges the state to adhere to the WHO guidelines. This week Milieudefensie announced that it is appealing against this ruling. 

In September Milieudefensie also filed summary proceedings against the Netherlands, demanding that the government work on at least meeting EU air quality standards. In that case the court ruled that the government had to draw up an air quality plan that complies with the European rules. Milieudefensie considers the plan the government came up with to be inadequate.