Italian steel factory accused of thousands of deaths related to toxic emissions

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By Giorgia Orlandi  & Ciaran Fitzpatrick
The Ilva steel plant is seen next to the Tamburi district, in Taranto, Italy
The Ilva steel plant is seen next to the Tamburi district, in Taranto, Italy   -  Copyright  REUTERS   -   REUTERS

A steel site in southern Italy run by struggling firm Irva has been accused of causing thousands of deaths linked to toxic emissions.

Residents complain that air pollution is killing many elderly people and children.

The Tamburi site is at the centre of a huge legal case. Experts cited by prosecutors have said some 7,500 people were killed in the area over seven years by diseases linked to toxic emissions.

Residents here live under a curfew especially during the so called “wind days”. This is when the wind is too strong and the risk of emissions coming from the plant is higher.

Schools also close earlier on these days.

The Tamburi area is situated just a few metres away from the factory. Here, cancer among children is 50 percent more common than in any other part of the region.

Grazia Parisi, a Paediatrician, says older children have become aware of the fact they are in danger:

They feel their lives are in danger. They keep hearing their parents talking about the mineral dust found in schools, inside their homes. They ask me will I live less than the children who don’t live in Taranto? I know families that have been devastated. Children here see their aunts and uncles dying and their grandparents also dying at a young age …their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.

Is anything being done to solve the crisis?

Last January, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for failing to protect its citizens.

It’s under renewed scrutiny following the failed takeover bid by steel giant ArcelorMittal.

ArcelorMittal pulling out of the purchase of Italy's struggling steel firm leaves the issue of environmental pollution hanging.

The group was given a period of legal immunity to bring the plant up to environmental standards.