People living around Tata Steel exposed to many harmful substances: RIVM
People living in the vicinity of Tata Steel in IJmuiden are exposed to far more harmful substances than people living elsewhere. The amount of lead is even so high that it can have consequences for locals residents' health, it exceeds the health-based limit. This also applies to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
At the end of last year, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) collected dust from dozens of places in Wijk aan Zee, Beverwijk, Velsen, IJmuiden, and Heemskerk. This happened both on the street and in people's homes. The composition of the dust particles was analyzed in a laboratory. The samples were compared with dust collected in Amersfoort, De Rijp (near Alkmaar), and De Zilk (near Noordwijk). Places that are far from Tata Steel.
Researchers measured about 900 times as much vanadium, 160 times as much manganese, and 150 times as much iron in the dust from Wijk aan Zee as outside the IJmond. "This especially applies to the locations closest to the Tata Steel site," according to the RIVM. Other substances commonly measured near Tata Steel were chromium, magnesium, nickel, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, calcium, strontium, barium, copper, cobalt, and zinc.
The levels of the substances inside the houses were lower than outside on the street, but here too it was higher than outside the IJmond. For example, the amount of lead indoors in Wijk aan Zee was more than a hundred times higher than in Amersfoort.
A substance like lead is very harmful to health, especially for children. Long-term exposure to it can lead to brain and nerve damage. The other substances can also be bad for your health. The RIVM could not say how many people will develop a disease like cancer as a result of this pollution. "It's not that people get sick right away if they ingest something, but it's an exposure you shouldn't want. Any exposure can increase the risk a little bit. That risk is on the small side, but it is there," said RIVM researcher Janneke Elberse.
The RIVM did not take measurements at the chimneys of Tata itself, but the results "indicate that a considerable part of the settled dust originated from the Tata Steel site". Further research should provide more clarity on this. But substances such as iron, manganese, vanadium and chromium "are typical of the steel industry. We could have said 'we are still investigating that', but we didn't think that was fair either. We thought it was important to make this statement quickly," said Elberse.
Steel manufacturer Tata Steel said it "understands that there are concerns in the area" of the factory in IJmuiden. Tata said it is studying the report and is therefore not yet responding substantively to the results.
In an initial response, the company said: "We strive to minimize the impact of the processes on the environment, which is a continuous processes." Tata said it invests hundreds of millions of euros into this. "The measures that have already been taken in recent years have meanwhile led to a significant decrease in emissions of, among other things, dust and noise in the environment."
Reporting by ANP