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Published June 15, 2018

Recently, I was talking to some of my friends about disasters, and we were debating which event could be called the worst disaster without having actually killed anyone. I think the Seveso chemical disaster is certainly a candidate; studies are still ongoing into the health impact it had on local residents, and while there appears to be an increased incidence of some types of cancer, it’s not possible to directly and definitively link any fatalities to the accident.

Despite that, it adversely affected thousands of people at the time – and, because of the EU regulations now named for the town, has helped to ensure the safety of countless more throughout the continent.

There was a somewhat disturbing postscript to this event, too; 42 barrels of contaminated waste from Zone A were supposed to have been disposed of legally in 1982 by a firm hired for the purpose. They asked that Givaudan should not be permitted to know the location of the disposal site; Givaudan in return asked for a notary public to certify that it had been done in a proper manner.

However, despite the notary’s sworn statement, the following year those 42 barrels were found in an abandoned French abattoir, where they had been left by a subcontractor. Hoffman-La Roche, the parent company of Givaudan and ICMESA, took responsibility for the waste, and had it all incinerated in Switzerland.

Thanks this episode go to:

I’d like to say a special thank you to Patreon supportersĀ Skeleheron and Mish Liddle, and to all of you for listening and reading.

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Sources and Further Reading:

This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters around the World- Robert Emmet Hernan

The Chemical Scythe: Lessons Of 2,4,5-T And Dioxin- Alastair Hay

Ignorance was Seveso’s real disaster – New Scientist, 29 September 1983

Italy: Poisoned Suburb – TIME, 14 August 1978

Wikipedia article on the disaster

The long road to recovery: Community responses to industrial disaster – Edited by James K Mitchell

Seveso disaster – New York Times, 19 August 1976

“Ich war absolut dumm” – taz (in German)

Briefing: The Seveso Disaster – ThoughtCo

COMAH Case Study: Icmesa chemical company, Seveso, Italy – Health & Safety Executive

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