Concerns over carcinogens from IJmuiden steel factory date back to 1975
Concerns about carcinogenic substances in the air around Hoogovens, now Tata Steel, date from nearly fifty years ago, EenVandaag reports based on a study from 1975. That report already showed an increased concentration around the steel factory in IJmuiden.
The research was conducted in 1975 at the request of the province of Noord-Holland and the municipality of Amsterdam. The researchers found that the average pollutant levels at the measuring points in Heemskerkerduin, Beverdijk, and IJmuiden were twice as high as at other measuring points. “The Wijk aan Zee measuring point, which is close to the Hoogoven site, shows a very different picture: the annual average level of all components except coronene is approximately a factor of 5 greater than at the other points outside the IJmond area,” the report states.
It involves polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as PAH. “When the winds blow over the Hoogoven site, there are strongly increased concentrations at the Wijk aan Zee and IJmuiden measuring points and slightly increased concentrations in Beverwijk, which indicate a clear influence from Hoogovens,” the report from the 1970s states.
“I must say that I find it a very revealing and shocking report,” Onno van Schayck, a professor of preventive medicine at Maastricht University, told EenVandaag (1V). “Because it shows very clearly that there were carcinogenic substances in the air every day in the area around the steel mill.” He continued: “We already knew 50 years ago that these substances are carcinogenic. We knew that from cigarettes, among other things, because they contain the same type of substances.”
“These substances change the genetic material of your DNA,” Van Schayck explained. “In people who are sensitive to it, this can lead to cell proliferation, which in turn leads to cancer. Very often, this is lung cancer, which is the first place where you inhale that junk, and that means that the cancer develops there.” In 2020, the GGD concluded that lung cancer was up to 50 percent more common around Tata Steel than the national average.
“It was already clear-cut 50 years ago, but environmental science was still in its infancy. People were hesitant to do anything with it, and then the report disappeared. A shame because it would have been useful in all the discussions in recent years,” Jacob de Boer, professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at the VU University Amsterdam, told 1V.
Van Schayck called the fact that nothing happened with the data from the report negligent. “Negligent on the part of Tata Steel, the licensing authority, the province, and I think also negligent on the part of organizations like the GGD, whose task it is to monitor what is happening on behalf of the municipality,” he said to the program. “I think that politicians must take strong action, both provincially, municipally, and nationally. People are dying here. Something must be done as quickly as possible. We have been chasing this problem for 50 years.”