The health of people living near polluting industries can and must be better protected. That says the Dutch Safety Board (OVV). According to the Council, the government and the business community rely too much on existing standards and that policy is insufficient.
For two years, the Dutch Safety Board has investigated the extent to which residents of industrial companies are protected against health risks. Experiences at Tata Steel, Chemours in Dordrecht and asphalt factory APN in Nijmegen were examined for this purpose. The cases differ considerably, but the Council sees patterns and is very critical of them. According to Stavros Zouridis, deputy chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, there are several problems.
‘The system works too slowly, while it could be much faster,’ Zouridis thinks. ‘European rules on iron and steel from 2012 had not yet been introduced during the course of the investigation. But we have seen that the problem of the graphite rains at Tata Steel in IJmuiden has been tackled at its roots in two years.’
According to the OVV, action is also only taken if there is unrest, among local residents or in the media. ‘There must be room for improvement, because it is the responsibility of both the government and the business community to better protect that health,’ says Zouridis.
Zouridis acknowledges that it is a complex problem. After all, companies follow the standards imposed by the government. ‘But a company should be independently interested in the health risks it causes itself. If companies, governments, GGDs and RIVM join forces and better monitor people’s health, you get a different dynamic.’
As far as Zouridis is concerned, companies must now take that responsibility. ‘They must want to gain more insight themselves and take action if their health is in danger. The structure is there.’ In addition, the national and local authorities should monitor better. ‘These results must be shared with the rest.’ The Cabinet, the responsible State Secretary and the Minister of Health should then actively monitor this.