Monday, 28 November 2016

Dr Dick van Steenis

Over the years we’ve had quite a few enquiries of one sort or another. Last week it was a phone call from Great Yarmouth to remind us of a successful campaign in 2010 to stop gravel extraction plans at Waveney Forest, also known as Fritton Woods.

The caller, a 'professional scientist', pointed us towards work by Dr Dick van Steenis, an 'internationally-renowned health expert' who has since passed away. You can read more about his work in Industrial Air Pollution and Asthma - A Failure of Regulation and in Poisoning the Poor by George Monbiot.

Dr van Steenis helped the Fritton campaign and warned of the dangers of air pollution, including from quarry sites:
Retired GP turned activist Dick Van Steenis outlined the shocking risks of chronic illness from proposed sand and gravel extraction at Waveney Forest during a packed public meeting and said it would affect thousands of households.
The heavyweight researcher claimed that toxic fuel and dust particles would cause diseases including heart attacks, cancer and emphysema.
Asthma rates would also soar…
"Particles from bulldozers, without filtration systems, rise 40ft in the air and cover a three mile radius," said Dr Van Steenis.
"Dirty oils produce particles that are classified by the EU as hazardous waste and should be banned. Emissions from one bulldozer is equal to 900 Volvos."
Dr van Steenis also helped a North East community in its battle to stop an opencast mining site:
Dr van Steenis claims that research shows that no opencast mining should be carried out within three miles of a population, making it almost impossible for development firms to find potential sites in England. The doctor, a former GP, said that tiny dust particles called PM1 and PM2.5 given off by opencast sites have been shown to have a detrimental effect on health.
He said: "The first problem is the bulldozers and the emissions they put out. Problem number two is the stuff that’s thrown up by the bulldozers – it is when these particles get into the breathing tubes that they start up an inflammation which causes asthma."
"It can also lead to health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and clinical depression."
"The fact is that it can only be done safely underground or three miles from a population - in Wales they now have a 500-metre barrier, which is still inappropriate but at least it is a start. In Australia and America they do it about 20 miles away from towns - it is only in England that it is such a free-for-all. The barriers need to be wider."
The caller also pointed us towards the study Living near opencast coal mining sites and children's respiratory health, which says:
There is now a substantial body of evidence linking ambient concentrations of particulate matter of 10 μm diameter (PM10) to respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, hospital visits, school absences, and other health outcomes.
The study was designed to compare rural and semiurban populations exposed to a mixture of background and opencast mining PM10 - that is, overburden, soil, and diesel - with populations exposed to similar rural background concentrations of PM10 only.
and concludes:
Children in opencast communities were exposed to a small but significant amount of additional PM10 to which the opencast sites were a measurable contributor. Past and present respiratory health of children was similar, but GP consultations for respiratory conditions were higher in opencast communities during the core study period.
This study looked at coal mining communities, but as Dr van Steenis pointed out above, and as we have posted before, sand and gravel quarries also generate significant amounts of pollution and particulate matter - which can travel extended distances.

This is obviously not something that bothers Aggregate Industries; its last planning application for Straitgate Farm put mineral extraction "approximately 70 metres" from the nearest homes.

Dr van Steenis claimed "no opencast mining should be carried out within three miles of a population"; AI claims 70 metres is safe. Who would you believe? An 'internationally-renowned health expert' or a profit-hungry mining conglomerate?