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Latest update : 2012-10-26

Italy's Ilva factory: your job or your health?

An Italian court has ruled in favour of closing Europe's biggest steel works on environmental and health fears. But the plant's managers are fighting to keep it open. Determined not to let that happen, citizens and workers have formed a united front.

The chimneys of the Ilva factory, in Taranto, in the Apulia region of Italy, can be seen for miles around. For a long time, they were the pride of the region. A third of Italy's steel output is produced here and it is the biggest steel works in Europe.

But there is a less glorious reality, which has long been hidden. The plant alone is responsible for 92% of the dioxin emissions in Italy and 9% of those in Europe. The air and soil of the town are contaminated by lead, nick and iron ore. For years, residents have been breathing in these toxic particles.

In Taranto, the mortality rate is 10 to 15 percent higher than the national average, while the cancer rate is over 30 percent higher. Cases of tumours, leukaemia and respiratory diseases are also abnormally high.

By Tristan Dessert

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