Fuels produced in the Netherlands for the African market contain high levels of benzene, sulfur, and manganese, which are considered harmful to human health and pollute the environment, inspectors with the Dutch Transport Ministry warned.

Citing a study, Petrol Fuel Quality and its Effects on the Vehicle Technology and the Environment by TNO, an independent research organization in the Netherlands focusing on applied science, the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) called the Dutch companies to account for these fuels exported to Africa.

The TNO study, based on a 2018 report on automotive fuels destined for Africa, finds these fuels unsuitable by European standards.

The study shows that due to the composition of the fuels, “vehicle catalysts and particulate filters cannot filter out the toxic substances and soon fail completely. As a result, the ‘unfiltered’ emissions increase even further. These petrols are not allowed on the European market because of the health risks, but they are still allowed in West Africa, where many old vehicles, discarded in Europe, are driving around.”

Inspector General Jan van den Bos warned that the findings are “worrisome” because they reveal the full extent of the damage to air quality and public health.

“The question is whether market players will take the initiative to develop cleaner fuels on their own. Consequently, from the point of view of producer responsibility, we are in dialogue with the producers,” he said.

Old cars, vans to Africa

Last year, the inspectorate published a second report showing that not only are fuels of poor quality, but also cars and vans transported from Dutch ports to Africa have a low emission standard, usually an invalid roadworthiness certificate, and often, there are already problems with the catalysts or particulate filter.

The study further warned that the countries that aim to use fewer “old” and more “younger” cars and vans to tackle air pollution and smog will not achieve their goal if these fuels are used.

More than 80% of the vehicles exported are no longer welcome in 15 West African countries as of Jan. 1, 2021.

The report reveals that these countries are closing their borders to these vehicles and are imposing other requirements on the quality of the fuels, which will improve the air quality in these countries.

The Dutch inspectors are now investigating whether the fuel companies operating in the Netherlands have adjusted their “just-fit-for-purpose” business practices since 2018.

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