Don’t be deceived by appearances (2020)

This is the story of the south Italian city of Taranto. Since the 1960s, it has been the home to the largest steel factory of Europe, currently operated by ArcelorMittal, but still known by its former name ‘Ilva’. Ilva’s opening created tens of thousands of new jobs and its industrial and economic relevance was celebrated nationwide. It was only after research by the World Health Organization in 1997 that the real cost of the steel factory was revealed. Large amounts of poisonous substances like dioxins and PCBs were found in the air and soil of Taranto and explained why its cancer cases have been significantly higher than the national average. Taranto’s inhabitants have a 30% higher chance of lung cancer and a 50% higher chance of respiratory diseases. On ‘wind days’ local authorities close down schools in fear of fine dust reaching the classrooms, in 2008, a local farmer, Vincenzo Fornaro was put out of business after he had to kill all his sheep due to high amounts of dioxine in the animal’s milk and blood. Even though these are only a few incidents for which the Italian government has received both national and international scrutiny, the authorities still refuse to close down the Ilva steel factory. Mainly because the poverty-stricken Taranto and its entire province, Puglia, is economically strongly dependent on its presence.

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