An external, independent investigation will be conducted into how a report on cancer cases in the region around Beverwijk was produced. The Kennemerland Safety Region (VRK) reports that this has been decided after consultation with the director of GGD Kennemerland Bert van de Velden. According to internal documents, he would have ordered the polluting company Tata Steel to be removed from the report.
It Noordhollands Dagblad wrote on Saturday that Van de Velden personally intervened several times to keep steel producer Tata Steel, the largest source of air pollution in the IJmond, out of the report. ‘The word Tata may not be used,’ the GGD director wrote to his employees. The newspaper reported that on the basis of documents that had been requested through an appeal to the Government Information (Public Access) Act. Various parliamentary groups want clarification from the cabinet and speak of a ‘scandalous’ state of affairs.
The GGD-Kennemerland and the Kennemerland Safety Region emphasize that the aforementioned study did not look at the causes of lung cancer cases, but only at the numbers. That would be the reason that any causative agents are not mentioned ‘specifically by name’. “GGD Kennemerland attaches great importance to due care and independence,” says Marianne Schuurmans, chair of the Kennemerland Safety Region in an explanation of the decision to conduct an external investigation into the GGD report.
“It is of the utmost importance that its investigations and reports are independent, scientifically substantiated and objective. This must be beyond any doubt.” Schuurmans points out that residents must be able to rely on the fact that the health service is always acting in their best interests, also because the inhabitants of the region have ‘been concerned for a long time about the increase in the number of cancer cases’. For example, lawyer Bénédicte Ficq has previously filed complaints on behalf of eleven hundred people and eight organizations against Tata Steel for causing health damage. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) is investigating the case.
It is not yet known who will carry out the external investigation, but the security region wants this to start as soon as possible. In order to offer the external investigator and the employees involved in the GGD report plenty of space, Van de Velden transfers the management of these employees during the external investigation to director Frans Schippers of the Kennemerland Safety Region.
Based on the documents requested by the Noordhollands Dagblad, 345 pages of emails and Whatsapp messages from GGD employees, the newspaper finds that a report reported 25 percent more cases of lung cancer in the region than the national average. In other ways, the newspaper found out that the percentage of lung cancer cases is twice as high in densely populated neighborhoods. And that this was not included in the report.
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