Does Tata Steel’s lead make us stupid? | column Joris Brussels

Wijk aan Zee is right next to Tata Steel.© Photo ANP/Ramon van Flymen

George Brussels


The village is still as black as it used to be. Colorful words from Hans Dellevoet of the Wijk aan Zee village council during a debate last Monday of the Provincial Council of North Holland.

Words that were recognized by Tata deputy Jeroen Olthof. In response to the recently published RIVM report of ‘the environmental pollution in the vicinity of Tata Steel that is dangerous to humans and animals, which remains unchanged’.

Read also: Provincial Council sweeps the floor with Tata claim ‘50% less paks’

A week before the report was released, Tata Steel itself indicated that fifty percent of the emissions of carcinogenic paks had been resolved. An assertion that many Members of Parliament found wrong, because this statement is not in line with the RIVM report. RIVM indicated that on the basis of the current measurements there is no reason to revise the conclusions from the previous RIVM report on Tata. It concluded that ‘long-term (low) exposure to lead can lead to negative effects on the IQ of children’.

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Columnist Joris Brussels.© archive photo Ronald Goedheer


A friend who lives on the other side of the country texted me teasingly if I was also affected by this. Whether I have already become dumber as a born and raised Velsen-Noorder? There you are as a blast furnace chauvinist with a mouth full of gears. Have we been fooled and fooled all these years that as loyal employees and their families we are proud of our steel mill? Or are the RIVM, the measurement experts and the environmentalists all wrong? Would exposure to lead and other nasty substances make you not only stupid but stubborn or chauvinistic? Is that it?

The Public Prosecution Service recently visited the steel plant as part of the massive criminal case against Tata, based on 1,100 reports from individuals and organisations. And four smaller criminal cases will also take place against Tata at the end of December.

The municipality of Beverwijk will have playgrounds in the area contaminated by waste cleaned. And many citizens agree that the polluting factory itself should pay these costs. Add to that the RIVM report and the critical attitude of the Provincial Council. The fire-breathing metal dragon that spews out polluting clouds is under fire from multiple sides. And now for real.

As a journalist, I think it’s a historic moment. As concerned about the health of my loved ones and myself a relief. As a child of the village where the blast furnaces are located and which feed us, I have a stone in my stomach. Or would that be the lead? The lead that makes us stupid?


It’s stupid that I describe it this way anyway. Because at football and in my group of friends or on family birthdays, people will not be pleased with what I write here. But it’s those people I don’t like to lose to health ailments caused by the factory they’re loyal to. And of course cleaning a slide, a critical Member of Parliament, a fine or possible community service will not ensure that a steel magnate in India sleeps worse.

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The municipality of Beverwijk will clean the playground equipment because of the dust from Tata.© archive photo dennis mantz

Read also: Melissa (32) happy with council decision to clean playground equipment in Beverwijk. “But pass the bill on to the polluter: Tata Steel”

But may it now please be the time when Tata Steel takes matters into its own hands and rewards its environment in turn with real sustainability? No loopholes, but real solutions. So that someone like Dellevoet of the Wijk aan Zee Village Council can report in the future that his village no longer looks black but green.


Joris Brussels (1987) is a columnist, writer, (city) poet and communication strategist. He comes from Velsen-Noord and lives in Beverwijk. Every week he gives his opinion here.


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