High levels of toxic substances in water in the Netherlands, study reveals

High levels of toxic substances in water in the Netherlands, study reveals

A recent study published by the non-profit organisation Natuur & Milieu has revealed that, in spite of attempts made by the Dutch government to improve water quality nationally, “many highly toxic substances” can still be found in water in the Netherlands. 

Attempts to improve water quality prove unsuccessful

In the report, Natuur & Milieu argue that the Dutch agricultural and industrial sectors have serious effects on the natural environment and water quality in the Netherlands, leading to a loss of biodiversity, damaged ecosystems and health issues for local fauna.

With the government having committed to reducing the use and environmental impact of pesticides, Natuur & Milieu aimed to investigate whether the policies put in place have successfully reduced pollutant levels in water, specifically the amount of toxic pesticides, which the EU stipulates “must be replaced due to high risks for humans and / or the environment,” and highly toxic substances.

As part of the study, Natuur & Milieu commissioned the Leiden Centre for Environmental Sciences (CML) to assess the water quality in 153 recreational and nature areas in the Netherlands. Samples taken between 2014 and 2021 revealed that there has been “no reduction” in the exceeding levels of toxic pesticides and substances in water. 

Water quality negatively impacting Dutch environment and biodiversity

The CML found traces of agricultural toxins in a whopping 80 percent of the samples tested, with 40 percent of samples found to have levels exceeding the environmental standard. As Natuur & Milieu explain in their report, this means that water is “seriously polluted in many places,” negatively affecting biodiversity in the Netherlands, and can in turn have knock-on effects on the quality of drinking water. 

The organisation has called the results of the study alarming. “The Netherlands is a major consumer of agricultural toxins and you can see the sad consequences of this in the water,” Natuur & Milieu’s Berthe Brouwer told NOS. "Normally water cleans itself, but that is no longer possible if the system is so affected. We are very concerned."

Natuur & Milieu calls on Dutch government to take action

“The policy pursued in recent years has proved ineffective,” the report reads, with Natuur & Milieu calling on the government to take additional measures in order to improve water quality and restore biodiversity.

The organisation is calling for the introduction of toxicity tax - a system already in place in Denmark which increases tax rates on toxic substances - and prohibit or limit the use of pesticides in national parks, nature reserves and drinking water areas.

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Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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