PVC managers get away with manslaughter and causing environmental disaster

Press release - 2 November, 2001

Greenpeace declared today to be "a dark day for environmental justice" as twenty eight senior managers of petrochemical companies Enichem and Montedison were acquitted of charges of mass manslaughter and environmental disaster by an Italian court this afternoon. The managers had been accused of mismanaging their VCM and PVC production plants, causing cancer amongst PVC workers and environmental disaster in the Venice Lagoon.

"This is a dark day for environmental justice and for workers and communities around the world whose lives are blighted by exposure to toxic pollution caused by PVC manufacturing and production. If industries are not held accountable for their environmental crimes, they will continue to poison workers, communities and the environment around the world. Today's society should no longer tolerate this," said Domitilla Senni, Executive Director of Greenpeace Italy, outside the court room in Mestre, Venice.

Greenpeace activists held a silent protest outside the courtroom today out of respect for the hundreds of Enichem and Montedison workers that have died or fallen ill as a result of the companies' polluting practices (2). The case was instigated by the workers when, in 1994, a retired PVC worker, Gabriele Bortolozzo, approached public prosecutor Felice Casson in Venice accusing the petrochemical companies of negligence and complaining that many workers were falling ill.

Greenpeace analysis, published in 1995, revealed that sediment in the Venice Lagoon is amongst the most contaminated with dioxins in the world (3). The report led to further investigations into the state of the industrial area of the Lagoon. These resulted in charges of environmental damage and food contamination being leveled against the petrochemical company managers. Dioxins had been released by Montedison and are still being poured into the Lagoon by Enichem and other industries of Porto Marghera, that use chlorine as part of their manufacturing processes.

In December 1996, after Casson published a list of 257 victims of the industries and submitted another 116 names of people who had already died as a consequence of the substances they had been working with, the managers were also charged with manslaughter. Medical records, together with internal company notes, indicate that the companies knew the risks their production processes posed as early as 1972. The trial started on 13th of March 1998.

"The Venice Lagoon is just one of many areas around the world that are being poisoned by irresponsible companies and, sadly, these Italian workers represent just some of many that are suffering as a result (4). Despite today's ruling, Greenpeace will continue to expose the dangers posed by industries that use and produce chlorine and do whatever it can to protect the environment and communities around the world. There is no place for dirty production in the 21st century," concluded Senni.