The illegal dumping of toxic waste is a worldwide problem that affects our environment in a number of ways. Toxins seep into our water supply, contaminate the soil, and can cause untold suffering for those who come into contact with them.
Southern Italy is a case in point, as the area has experienced immeasurable problems with toxic waste according to Spiegel. The Mafia has dumped millions of tonnes of hazardous materials there – in fact, an illegal dumpsite near Naples, reportedly the size of 30 football pitches, has been described as “Italy’s Chernobyl” by the Italian media.
This region has also been termed the “Land of Fires” due to the Mafia setting light to piles of hazardous waste, releasing toxic smoke into the air for miles around. It is also said that pits were dug during road construction in the area, for the sole purpose of dumping toxic materials including asbestos and dioxin.
Those working at a US navy base near the dump sites are banned from using tap water for health and safety reasons. If they choose to live off-site, they’re warned against choosing ground floor apartments as the toxic gases pose less of a danger on the upper floors.
Severe health implications
Statistics from the Italian Cancer Research Institute in Naples show an increase of 47% in the number of men suffering tumours during the last 20 years, and also of children with severe autism. The Campania region also has the highest infertility rate in the country.
An Italian environmental group, Legambiente, estimate that contamination of rivers and natural waterways will make the area hazardous to health until 2080, resulting in numerous generations being exposed to life-threatening carcinogens.
A local journalist, Salvatore Minieri, decided to investigate the reports of toxic dumping and began digging down into the contaminated land. He said:
“It’s one layer of toxic industrial waste on top of another, capped by cement, with only a few inches of soil on top. It’s been here for decades. Unfortunately it turned out to be the biggest illegal industrial dump on the continent.”
Asbestos and the environment
Asbestos is a particularly insidious substance in terms of damage to health and the environment. Once asbestos fibres are airborne, they can travel for miles and are easily disturbed once settled on the ground.
Rather than being absorbed by soil, they remain on the surface and can become airborne again with just a slight breeze. With the heightened asbestos awareness that we have today, it’s clear this toxic substance has severe health and safety implications for anyone living or visiting the area.
When added to a long list of other hazardous substances said to have been buried underground near Naples, it’s no wonder that cancer rates in the area are 80% higher than the national average.
Illegal dumping is also a huge issue in other countries including America and Australia, but not yet on the scale of Italy’s Land of Fires.