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Healthy new construction? That is not possible in the Netherlands

‘Healthy’ new construction was already difficult in the Netherlands. The biggest culprit is the air. In the Netherlands, this is so polluted with particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide that our country only just meets European limit values: ceilings on the quantities of these substances that are allowed to be in the air.

Last month, the WHO tightened the ceilings, because dirty air in smaller quantities can already have consequences for our health. Air pollution causes cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and sometimes even lung cancer.

Air too polluted

The consequence of the tightening is that it is no longer possible to build healthy anywhere in the Netherlands, because all new homes to be built are registered in places where the air is too polluted.

This is especially the case in the Randstad, where the majority of the 900,000 homes to be built by 2030 are planned there. Because the European rules apply and not the stricter standards from the WHO advice, all these projects can still be built.

Analysis of new construction projects

It is known exactly where they can be built for almost half of all planned new construction projects. Of all analyzed projects, 60 percent may be built under the old standard, but no longer below the WHO limit.

The map below shows how much particulate matter is in the air per project. Two different types of particulate matter are measured: coarser particles (PM10) and finer particles (PM2.5). Zoom in to see whether air quality meets WHO standards for each project.

Accountability:

RTL Nieuws looked at the well-known new construction plans for the period up to 2030. Nearly 900,000 houses have to be built during this period. The New Map provides insight into the precise location of almost 435,000 of these houses.

The RIVM concentration maps for particulate matter were used to calculate the air quality. Due to the influence that corona measures have had on air quality, it has been decided to use the data from 2019.

If you combine those data, you see that in almost all places the air quality is below par according to the limits from the WHO advice.

Should we just stop building altogether? No, says professor Onno van Schayck, professor of preventive medicine at Maastricht University. “Of course that’s not a solution. We just need houses, so stopping building is not an option.”

Rigorous measures

“The only option is to make the air cleaner and that is possible. There are many examples in the world, from the past but also recently, where the air has really become a lot cleaner when rigorous measures have been taken, including in Netherlands,” says Van Schayck. “If we electrify our fleet completely, accelerate it, it makes a huge difference.”

Restricting wood burning or filters on open fireplaces can also make a huge difference, he continues. Just like tackling intensive livestock farming, shipping and ‘the incredibly polluting two-stroke mopeds’. “Something really has to be done about that and it can be done.”

What now?

The – now caretaker – cabinet concluded the Clean Air Agreement last year to ensure that air pollution decreases and ‘moves towards’ the recommended exposure limits of the WHO. On 12 October, the House of Representatives adopted a motion asking the government to map out additional measures before the summer recess 2022 that are necessary to comply with the tightened guideline values ​​of the WHO by 2030.

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