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Italy: UN rights expert laments adverse impact of industrialisation, urges measures to redress damage

13 December 2021

ROME (13 December 2021) - A UN human rights expert today urged Italy to redress the adverse impacts on the enjoyment of human rights of decades of industrialisation, saying economic development and technological innovation should not come at the expense of human health and the environment.

Speaking at the end of a visit to Italy from 30 November to 13 December, the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, stressed that authorities ought to ensure that industries use technologies and production methods that do not impair the health of Italian residents.

In a statement, he noted the progress made by Italy towards environmental justice, in particular the adoption of Law 68-2015 regarding environmental crimes.

The Special Rapporteur, however, expressed deep concern at Italy’s export of pesticides that are banned in the European Union. “I call Italy to put an end to the abhorrent double standards resulting from the export of prohibited highly hazardous pesticides,” Orellana said.

He also expressed concern at the illegal shipment of 282 containers of wastes to Tunisia in 2020. “I am appalled at the excessive amount of time the waste containers have remained in Tunisia,” he said. “The repatriation of the wastes should be carried out without further delay.” To prevent illegal waste shipments, wastes should be inspected prior to shipment, he added.

The exposure to hazardous substances of communities living in the vicinity of contaminated sites poses very serious human rights concerns, Orellana said. “I am particularly concerned by the excess of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological impairment that affect people living close to sites contaminated by industrial plants, refineries and the dumping of hazardous wastes.

“I am seriously concerned by the magnitude of the pollution with PFAS in certain areas of Veneto and the grave health problems suffered by the residents in the area,” he said, referring to toxic per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

The UN expert said he was following closely the criminal trial underway concerning the PFAS contamination. He urged Italy to take the necessary steps towards restricting the use of PFAS at the national level.

Orellana also called on the authorities to ensure that industries such as Ilva, in the city of Taranto, Puglia, use technologies and production methods that do not impair the health of those living in the area. He urged the Government to ensure that any operations at Ilva respect the air quality levels of the World Health Organization.

The illegal dumping, burying, and burning of hazardous wastes in the area of Campania known as the Terra dei Fuochi has generated very high levels of air, water and soil pollution. While a law was passed in 2014 to remediate the contamination, there are not sufficient resources for its implementation, the expert said.

Orellana called on Italy to ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

During his visit Orellana met representatives of the Government, regional and local authorities, community members, lawyers, doctors and members of civil society.

The UN expert will present his findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2022.

ENDS

Mr. Marcos A. Orellana is the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name for the Council's independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that deal with specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For additional information and media requests please contact the OHCHR Secretariat: Gotzon Onandia Zarrabe ([email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Mr. Jeremy Laurence (+41 22 9179383/[email protected])

Follow news related to the Mandate on Toxics and Human rights on Twitter @SRtoxics

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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