The current level of emissions from the Tata Steel site is putting people who live in the IJmond region at an elevated risk of disease. The greatest benefits to public health in the region can be achieved by reducing nuisance caused by and exposure to Tata Steel emissions. This is the outcome of a study conducted by RIVM. The RIVM study combines the available knowledge on the link between emissions from the Tata Steel site and the health of people who live nearby. One of the findings was that 80% of Wijk aan Zee residents experience odour, dust and noise nuisance. As a consequence of Tata Steel’s emissions of fine particles and nitrous oxides, Wijk aan Zee residents have a life expectancy that is 2.5 months lower.
This is not the first time a study has been conducted into the health of people living in the IJmond region: RIVM, the Municipal Public Health Service and other research institutions have done so before. Many of those studies focused on only part of the chain that links emissions to health. This new study looked at the entire chain for a variety of substances. By combining knowledge and techniques from various disciplines, RIVM was able to assess the risk of becoming ill as a result of emissions from the Tata Steel site.
RIVM calculated how much of the Tata Steel emissions end up in the living environment and used this as a basis to determine the consequences for the health of local residents when they are exposed to these substances. It also established the percentage of local residents who experience noise, odour and dust nuisance.
Largest risk of adverse health effects in Wijk aan Zee
This resulted in different findings for each residential nucleus. The risk of adverse health effects is largest in Wijk aan Zee. The effects become less pronounced further away from the Tata Steel site.
Up to 80% of Wijk aan Zee residents experience dust, odour and noise nuisance. They also reported sleeping problems and concerns about their health. Nuisance is an adverse health effect that can lead to symptoms like fatigue, stress or cardiovascular disease.
RIVM calculated that Wijk aan Zee residents have a life expectancy that is 2.5 months lower due to exposure to fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as a consequence of Tata Steel’s emissions. Exposure to fine particles also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Around 4% of new cases each year can be ascribed to emissions of fine particles. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide increases the risk of developing asthma. This concerns around 3% of new asthma cases in children under the age of 18.
Choices made in the study
For this study, RIVM concentrated on dust, odour and noise nuisance. RIVM also assessed the current level of emissions into the air of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, PAHs and lead from the Tata Steel Netherlands site. These substances are known to be harmful to health. Moreover, sufficient scientific information is available on these substances.
The greatest benefits to public health can be achieved by reducing nuisance caused by and exposure to fine particles and nitrogen dioxide. Reducing the emissions of PAHs and lead will also benefit public health, provided the actual exposure to these substances is also reduced.
People living near Tata Steel are exposed to a variety of substances at the same time, which may have multiple effects. Generally speaking, RIVM believes it is important to gather more information on these cumulative effects. There is also a need for greater insight into the nature and scope of the effects of nuisance on health.
RIVM conducted this study on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW).