The poisonous Italian smelter in Taranto produces steel as well as deadly toxins. It is a disaster for the environment and the health of the inhabitants – to such an extent that adults and children are sick. They die more often than in other regions of the country. The trial in this case was famous throughout Italy. 35 people were sentenced to a total of 400 years in prison, including the former president of the Apulia region. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.
Where adults do not see solutions anymore and spread their hands, there are children left, whose questions will not be stopped by the government’s decisions or the impotence of their parents. Eight-year-old Andrea was born with a genetic mutation that he did not inherit – his mother lives in Taranto, next to a 60-year-old steel mill, one of the largest in Europe.
In a letter to the mayor, the child asks why the place that harmed him is still working. – He asked the mayor to come to the square and talk to him about the closure of the smelter. Now we hope to meet – says the boy’s mother, Simona Peluso. The mayor replied that he was trying – so far to no avail.
Andrea was a premature baby born with vision, heart and brain defects. He suffers from epilepsy, motor and intellectual disability. There are ten children like him in the world. – In the case of somatic changes, i.e. in non-reproductive cells, there can be very different external factors – says the geneticist Dr. Jacek Pilch.
Getting sick in Taranto
By 2009, newborns were dying 20 percent more often than in other parts of the region, according to a study in Taranto. Lung cancer, usually seen in long-term heavy smokers, was diagnosed in 11-year-old children. During the research, dioxins were found in cheese, seafood and in the milk of nursing mothers. Poisonous compounds from the smelter were found in the brain of a child who died at the age of 15 of cancer. His parents are fighting for justice in court.
“Day after day, since we were embryos, our bodies accumulated pollutants, later we passed them on to our son, who also grew up here and absorbed even more,” says the mother of the deceased, Carla Luccarelli.
According to research, 386 people died in 12 years due to environmental pollution in Taranto. Malignant lung cancer was more than 4 times more common in adult men, and since 2006, the frequency of diagnosed cases of leukemia, cancers of the respiratory system, stomach and heart disease has increased.
Ironworks owners doomed
Research conducted in the vicinity of the steelworks nine years ago triggered an investigation that led to the so-called “Sold Out Environment” process. For the first time in history, prosecutors accused the owners of the steelworks, its employees and state officials of participating in an organized criminal group aimed at causing an environmental disaster, poisoning local residents and deliberately failing to take precautionary measures.
– From 2012 to today, which is the hottest time for the steelworks, not even those parts of the factory that produced and produce the most pollution have been closed. This was possible thanks to 12 government regulations protecting the steelworks, points out Valeria D’Autilia, journalist “La Stampa”.
The trial in Taranto ended three months ago. The former owners of the ironworks were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison. The 35 inmates who face a total sentence of nearly 400 years in prison include the former president of the Puglia region, Nichi Vendola, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Plans for the modernization of the steelworks
– We hope that thanks to this verdict, similar situations will not occur elsewhere, that it will be a warning to many other corporations that still poison people – says Joanna Flisowska from Greenpeace Polska.
The verdict is not final yet. The steelworks belongs to an international corporation and the state, and the Ministry of Development has announced the modernization of parts responsible for most of the pollution, but even a temporary suspension of steel production is out of the question.
– The steelworks has a strategic status for Italy due to the fact that it produces more than 1 percent of the gross domestic product of the whole country. Additionally, it employs 10,000 employees. This argument is raised by all those who are against the closure of the smelter, says Valeria D’Autilia.
Maria Mikołajewska, asty // now