Brescia, the capital town of dioxin

aprile 10, 2013 in Approfondimenti da Anna Zorzi

Written by Mario Baldoli, translated by Anna Zorzi  Bandierina-Italiana

A national congress on the reclamation of polluted areas, promoted by Fondazione Micheletti  and with the patronage of the Town Council, will take place  in Brescia at the auditorium Santa Giulia, via Piamarta next 14th and 15th October. Topic of discussion will be the  pollution in Brescia and surroundings, such as : the site of the factory Caffaro in town, the iron and steel industry affecting  the River Mella, the waste incinerator (the biggest in Europe) of the local  ASM  (the Municipal Services Company), cement works,  the future thermoelectric and atomic power stations  in the area of Ghedi’s  military airport.

In a public meeting organized by G9 last year, Brescia was said to be the third most polluted town in Europe (according to EU data). Today Brescia is confirmed to be the most polluted town in Italy.

The factory Caffaro, located  near via Milano in Brescia and  not far from the historical  city centre, is the most responsible for the pollution. (see Let’s compare some data:  the most polluted area surrounding the factory Ilva in Taranto has a concentration of 10.3 nanograms of dioxins per kilo of soil, in Brescia the amount of dioxins is  of 3,332 nanograms per kilo of soil and 25,000 residents are at risk around there.

The maximum value inside Ilva is of 351,  inside Caffaro it is of 325,000. And we cannot forget to add the values of PCBs, which are very high in Brescia.

Taranto is a European case, Brescia is  just a local case involving the town and its southern  province near the area of Capriano del Colle.  Taranto has been promised to get 340 million to invest in the works of reclamation,  Brescia has been waiting for years  to get 6 million in vain, even though the northern town has been  represented in Parliament by more ministers or parliamentarians than the southern one.  That means that the issue of pollution in Brescia is felt as if incompatible with the ethics of work and for this reason it is totally ignored and removed.

During the Vietnam War the USA produced 360kilos of dioxin ( a quantity very similar to the amount  present in Brescia) and now they have invested 340 million in  new innovative techniques of reclamation, after  the town of Anniston in Alabama turned out to be uninhabitable because of the quantity of Pcb produced by the American  Monsanto Company.

An article in “La Repubblica” and the book Un secolo di cloro….e di Pcb. Storie delle industrie Caffaro di Brescia , written by Marino Ruzzenenti after 4 years of surveys, were the first  in 2001 to expose the situation of Brescia.


Three scientific committees were formed, one from the ASL  (the local health authority), one from the ARPA (the Italian environmental protection agency  ) and one from the Town Council , together with the “Local committee against the pollution of the Caffaro area” created by the residents in Brescia. Many petitions  were presented  at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and to the European Union too, but all efforts were in vain.

The surveys made by the ARPA show that the worst contamination comes more from the dioxins rather than from the Pcbs (polychlorinated byphenils).  They are substances which are cancerous, toxic, persistent, not easily biodegradable,  their accumulative effects  contaminate the food chain and  the organisms  involved in them are long-lived. They  get stronger and stronger whenever they pass from the bottom to the top of the food chain, from  grass, to animals , to man.

Despite the two international congresses promoted in 2004 by the Town Council and in 2007 by Magistratura Democratica, the two local mayors Corsini and Paroli  in office in those years had an ambiguous attitude towards the issue,  perhaps to avoid either personal concerns or the conflict of interest on the property, which now belonged to Chicco Gnutti’s Hopa Spa holding company.

In 2008 the Istituto Superiore di Sanità found a very high concentration of dioxins in the blood and mother’s milk of residents in Brescia.

In 2009 the factory Caffaro  wound up and Brescia was left on its own to cope with  its “Caffaro Bomb”.

No money has come from the Ministry of Health so far, while punctually the Imu (the tax on private buildings and property) came to those 18 factory farms which had to shut down and had to have their animals put down. Meanwhile, the groundwater table  was found out to be polluted. The liquidator  of the factory Caffaro assumed responsibility for a solution to this problem as far as he could, providing the water table with safety measures like draining channels and activated carbon filtration.

The  company which has  recently acquired some brands and equipments of the ex Caffaro  has been dealing  with the current situation for some years, but it has already announced the definite closing down.  People of Brescia and its institutions are abandoned again with the ecological bomb in their  bodies, physically and metaphorically speaking.

The World Health Organization has officially included the Pcb in the list of substances which are cancerous for human health. In Seveso, where 25 years ago the  dioxin disaster broke out with the explosion of the factory Icmesa, the probability of neonatal alterations and hormonal effects (physical and intellectual deficiencies) is superior by 6.6, even though the area surrounding the factory was evacuated and the ground deeply cleaned. In Brescia the number  of bone and brain cancer affecting children under their first year of life is increasing. What we breathe and eat, says Professor Porta , president of the Italian Association of hematology and oncology, stays inside us, it could change our genetic code and be transmitted to our children.

On  a worldwide scale the average concentration of dioxins and Pcb in the human body is of 13.2 picograms per gram of fat, in Brescia this value is of 54, it goes up to 82  in the bodies of the people living in the Caffaro area and it reaches 419 picograms in those people who  have consumed food products grown on the nearby farms .

The case Caffaro was brought back to the attention of the public opinion by a program on RAI 3, which dedicated a whole episode to it;  the Local Health Authority in Brescia (ASL) still keeps denying  the sanitary emergency. Marino Ruzzenenti has publicly  asked for the change of the members of the executive board.

An ordinance of the new City Council, after being reiterated for 11 years, has raised the acceptable limits valid for public and private gardens, making them accessible , like for example the public  parks in the Chiesanuova area.

What remedies can we adopt? As there is no money, we can at least hope, with the optimism of a child, in the American studies.

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