Locals file mass claim against Tata Steel for health damage caused by factory emissions
Over 1,400 people who live around the Tata Steel factory in IJmuiden have joined a mass claim against the steel factory. They experience problems and health damage due to dust, noise, poor air quality, and odors and see Tata Steel as the culprit, NOS reports based on a letter sent to Tata Steel by the Frisse Wind foundation, which is filing the mass claim on behalf of the locals.
Locals are concerned about the safety of their living environment and the consequences for their health, the Frisse Wind foundation wrote. Scientific research has established that people in the area are more likely to suffer from health problems like headaches and nausea than elsewhere in the Netherlands. And serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung cancer are also more common.
According to the public health and environment institute RIVM, Tata Steel is mainly responsible for the harmful substances emitted into the area. But other companies and sources of emissions are also active in the area. So, a one-to-one relationship between Tata Steel and health risks in the region has not yet been scientifically proven, according to NOS.
The locals aren’t worried about this for their mass claim. “The emission of hazardous substances by Tata is sufficiently established as far as we are concerned,” John Beer, a personal injury lawyer and director of Frisse Wind, told NOS. The argument that other sources also emit harmful substances does not hold, he said. “Take as an example an employer who exposes his employees to asbestos, but they also smoke. Do you then say ‘own fault’ if they get cancer?” The rule of law is more nuanced than that, Beer said.
Tata Steel told NOS that it would study the letter from Frisse Wind in detail before discussing the content of the mass claim. The company also said it’s taken various measures to reduce emissions and nuisance.
In 2021, after a series of studies showed high concentrations of lead and carcinogenic substances in the environment around the steel factory, Tata Steel announced an investment of 300 million euros to address these problems. Last year, the company took various measures to reduce the emission of carcinogenic substances. According to the steel company, that will reduce lead emissions by 70 percent, heavy metal emissions by 55 percent, and particulate matter emissions by 35 percent this year. However, RIVM measurements of settled dust in 2022 showed little improvement in the pollution levels compared to 2020.
In addition to the mass claim, Tata Steel is also facing a criminal investigation accusing it of deliberately polluting the soil, air, or surface water. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) is expected to decide before the end of this year whether Tata Steel directors will be prosecuted in this case.
Criminal defense lawyer Benedicte Ficq also filed charges against TATA Steel director Hans van den Berg. “There is something wrong with your conscience if you think shareholders’ dividend is more important than the health of local residents. A prison sentence is then appropriate,” Ficq said in June.