Carcinogenic Lapses: Noord-Holland's Oversight

Tata Steel in Noord-Holland
Tata Steel in Noord-HollandImage Source: Tata Steel


For over 20 years, Tata Steel in Noord-Holland province reportedly released an excessive amount of carcinogens into the environment. Despite knowledge of these leaks in the 1980s, corrective actions were delayed until 2007, raising concerns about the potential health impact on local communities, reports NL Times.


The province of Noord-Holland has been under scrutiny after revelations surfaced that it allowed Tata Steel, previously known as Hoogovens, to emit harmful carcinogens into the environment for more than two decades. A recent report by, based on its podcast titled "Tata’s ijzeren greep", brought these alarming details to light.

During the 1980s, the provincial authorities identified that one of Tata Steel's coke gas factories in Wijk aan Zee was discharging excessive carcinogenic. The remedy was evident – the replacement of the oven doors with more sealed versions. However, despite the clear directive, the factory continued its operations with the same oven doors for almost 20 years.

Researchers in the late 1970s made an alarming discovery. The air surrounding the blast furnaces had a high concentration of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) substances. PAHs, known to be released during incomplete combustion, are commonly found in smoke emitted from fireplaces, cigarettes, and coal stoves. In the context of Tata Steel, the coke-making process, which transforms coal into coke by cooking it at extreme temperatures, was identified as the primary source of these PAH releases.

By 1983, the provincial authorities had flagged that the second coke factory was releasing an alarming amount of carcinogenic substances. Merely four years later, in 1987, this was noted as one of nine severe breaches of the permit given to Hoogovens.

Yet, a subsequent environmental deal in 1988 between Hoogovens and the provincial government overlooked the critical need to replace the oven doors. This oversight meant that the environment continued to be exposed to carcinogenic PAHs for the next two decades.

Almost a decade later, in the late 1990s, the issue of the leaking oven doors at coke factory 2 resurfaced. After a comprehensive study, the authorities recommended the installation of spring-loaded doors. However, it wasn't until 2007, a whopping 20 years after the initial identification, that these doors were finally installed.

While exact emission figures from the leaking oven doors remain undisclosed, toxicologist Jacob de Boer of the Vrije Universiteit sounded the alarm on the potential health implications. He unequivocally confirmed the carcinogenic nature of PAHs and expressed concerns over the link between the steel factory's emissions and the high incidence of cancer in the IJmond region.


The prolonged oversight by the Noord-Holland province in addressing the carcinogenic emissions from Tata Steel's factory raises pressing questions about governance and public health safety. As the revelations come to the fore, the onus now rests on both the provincial authorities and Tata Steel to ensure such lapses are never repeated in the future, safeguarding the well-being of the community.

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