2015-10-29

Steel producers and other industrial sectors must comply with new EU emission rules by 2016. But the giants of the steel industry have watered down their obligations after a successful lobbying campaign within the EU decision-making process.

As recently as 2012, industrial emissions were responsible for an estimated 60 billion euros in harm through medical emergencies and premature deaths, according to figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA). Prolonged exposure to chemically coated dust can lead to lung cancer and often fatal respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. The EEA claims that this dust has been responsible for the deaths of at least 430,000 people in 2011 alone. It is the most dangerous atmospheric pollutant and its impact on health leaves Europe's taxpayers with a hefty bill.

The steel industry is one of the major emitters of this dust. The EU, in a bid to alleviate the problem, adopted a directive in 2010 that aimed to regulate industrial emissions. Steel producers and other industrial sectors must comply with the new rules by 2016.

However, the giants of the steel industry have watered down their obligations following a successful lobbying campaign within the EU decision-making process. European deputies have approved general rules to force the industry to pollute less. But the industry is left free to decide both how and by how much emissions should be reduced.

Due to this waiver, steelworks managed to opt-out from some of the best available technologies to clean up the air spewed from their chimneys.  Experts say that 4,000 tonnes of additional particulate matter will therefore enter the atmosphere. Each tonne of fine particulate matter represents an additional average 23,000 euros in costs for Europe’s health services combined. Over five years, the extra dust emitted by the European steel industry has a potential total cost of €900m. It is a sum greater than the €700m that the thirty-odd steelworks in the EU would have had to invest to become more sustainable.

Stefano Valentino

Stefano Valentino is a freelance reporter and entrepreneurial media maker, passionate about the intersection between sustainability, power and digitalisation.

Dino Trescher

Dino Trescher is a German journalist.

Luuk Sengers

Luuk Sengers is a Dutch investigative journalism trainer.

Supported
Grant of €6.000 allocated on 24/04/2014
ID
2014/201

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