Tens of thousands of Dutch people want to move due to air pollution, according to Longfonds, a non-profit organization specialized in improving lung health and helping people with lung disease. They state that 12 percent of lung patients want to move due to bad air quality.
“That is really worrisome”, says director of Longfonds, Michael Rutgers. “We’re talking here about tens of thousands of people that suffer so much due to air pollution that they want to move. This is unacceptable.”
55-year-old Desirée Brouwer who has asthma is one of those people. She lives in Capelle aan den Ijssel “directly under the smoke of Rotterdam”. In an interview with Longfonds she describes what her day looks like “When I walk out of the door in the morning, I notice that the air is really dirty.”
Due to the unclean air which causes her extreme difficulty breathing and fatigue, she has expressed the wish to relocate. “We tried to move to Sweden and now we would like to go to Gelderland but it is not financially possible. We’re literally stuck in our home.”
A quarter of the 1.2 million people with some form of lung disease in the Netherlands are negatively affected by poor air quality every week. The most common culprits named by lung patients are wood-burning stoves, road traffic, barbecues and fire pits.
“Exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone causes and worsens lung cancer, asthma, COPD and cardiovascular disease, among other things”, statd Longfonds. The organization claims that one in five Dutch children develop asthma due to high nitrogen dioxide levels, awarding the Netherlands an unwanted first place in Europe in that respect.
Longfonds is working together with a range of Dutch municipalities to improve air quality. In January 2020, state secretary, Stientje van Veldhoven together with 36 municipalities and nine provinces signed the Schone Lucht Akkoord. Currently, 56 municipalities and 11 provinces are part of the deal. “Only together can we work for cleaner air for our children”, says Rutgers.
The deal is a promise to consistently improve air quality with the goal to achieve a 50 percent health gain from 2016 to 2030. “This means that people live longer, healthier and with better quality”, said Minister Veldhoven when she placed her signature last year.