Air Date: Week of July 26, 1996
Facts about... the Seveso, Italy chemical accident.
NUNLEY: Before there was Bhopal, there was Seveso. Twenty years ago this summer an explosion at a chemical plant near Milan, Italy, released a cloud of dioxin over the town of Seveso. The foul-smelling compound caused birds to fall from the sky, and all the town's farm animals had to be slaughtered. People living near the plant were evacuated. Those who lived a little further away were allowed to remain. In the aftermath of the explosion some 200 residents developed a rare skin disorder called chloracne. And in the decade that followed, scientists found the residents who stayed had increased rates of leukemia, lymphoma, and sarcoma, as well as gall bladder and biliary tract cancer. The disaster heightened public awareness of exposure to toxic chemicals, and led to the tightening of regulations of hazardous sites in the European Union. And scientists exploring the long-term effects of dioxin continue to study the accident's victims. Today the Seveso plant and the topsoil around it have been removed. The area is now a park, but it's a park that's surrounded by a fence. It remains unsafe for regular use. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth almanac.
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