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The 200-mile catch. European Community. No. 198, November-December 1976

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  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Medicine


I0lft lll 0tJlHffn $ ffnt ilt cHtttsl ff*f rlmill t P;t$t I'lill a .A,tr l :r ',{t' tt Seveso Fallout "Poison Cloudn Effects_, Known and Unknown_, Linger CHRISTINA LORD, Rome-based freelancer who writes for The New York Times and The Economist MONTHS AFTER AN EXPLOSION IN A CHEMICAL FACTORY near Seveso, 12 miles north of Milan, became the latest and possibly the most ominous of Italy's national night- mares, the long-term effects of "the poison cloud" have not yet been fully assessed. The disaster not only created a public health emer- gency but also raised economic and social problems. It focused attention on the chemical industry in Italy and other countries and highlighted the frequent lack of safety measures. For months it has been the main concern of the region of Lombardy, to which the Seveso area be- longs, and has prompted offers of help throughout Europe and brought home the need for greater transnational co- operation in matters of safety and environmental legisla- tion. The explosion, which occurred on July 10 in the Swiss- owned IcMESA factory after a pipe overheated and spewed into the air several pounds of one of the most deadly sub- stances known to man- 2,3, 7 ,8-tetrachlorodibenzopara- dioxin, or TCDD. Within a few days, plants and hundreds of small animals like cats and chickens had died, and in- habitants of the area were developing rashes and nausea. First estimates placed the affected area at 10,000 acres. The accident was without precedent in Italy's industrial history. Dealing with it became one of the first jobs that the new Government of Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti had to tackle. The physical hazards of TCDD were enormous. The sub- stance, which scientists around the world term one of the most toxic in existence, is known to cause skin lesions and damage to internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. In the laboratory, it has also been found to cause embryo malformations in small animals at a con- cent

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