Launch of Italian Asbestos Plan
Earlier this week, the Auditorium San Filippo in Casale Monferrato, the Italian town at the center of a landmark asbestos trial, was the location for the high-profile launch of a National Asbestos Plan.1 Explaining the choice of venue, Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said that Casale Monferrato had become a universal symbol of man's struggle against a deadly enemy: asbestos. Epidemiologists predict that a further 25,000 Italians will die from asbestos-related diseases before the epidemic peaks.2 For this reason, the Ministers of Health, Environment and Labor, in conjunction with civil society stakeholders and government agencies, are coordinating a response to the public health emergency.3
Initial funding of tens of millions of euros has been provided so that research to quantify the problems posed by long-term hazardous human exposures and widespread contamination of the built and natural environment could be undertaken.4 Data collection is crucial to the assessment of the health consequences of hazardous exposures; network interfaces are being created to incorporate feedback from clinical and biological centers into a central database in order to improve monitoring protocols. Scientific and medical researchers are prioritizing the need to improve diagnostic and treatment options for patients with malignant mesothelioma. Experts from the University of Alexandria and the University of Turin are collaborating on plans to create an organizational model to provide a continuum of care for the injured. Research on risk assessment, health surveillance, genetic susceptibility and the efficacy of biomarkers is also being progressed.
As a result of the work undertaken so far, asbestos pollution has been found at 34,000 sites in 19 regions. Sites designated as high risk have been assigned a priority status of 1; it is believed that due to extensive pollution, sites in Broni (Pavia Province) and Casale Monferrato (Alessandria Province) are in this category. Work is ongoing to conduct environmental audits throughout the country.
In his comments to the meeting Giorgio Demezzi, Mayor of Casale Monferrato, pressed the Ministers on funding for municipal removal programs. The national dialogue on asbestos has, he said, created a lot of expectations; without the money to action decontamination work and legislation to allow this money to be spent, no improvements are possible.5 Demezzi also commented on the fact that none of the interim payments awarded by the Turin Court have been paid by defendants Stephan Schmidheiny or Louis de Cartier de Marchienne.
April 10, 2013
1 For more information on the meeting on April 8, see the website of Casale Monferrato:
2 Mossano S. Perché un piano anti-amianto? April 9, 2013.
3 Piano Nazionale Amianto. March 2013.
4 Amianto,il picco dei malati entro il 2025. April 9, 2013.
5 Presentato questa mattina il piano nazionale amianto a Casale Monferrato. April 8, 2013.