Asbestos damages in Casale Monferrato by Eternit, Italy

Breathing in the the dust of death, the most famous and emblematic case of asbestos production in italy


Asbestos is a set of minerals from the group of inosilicates. The exceptional heat resistance of the fiber has favored a massive spread, was mainly used to coat or replace flammable materials. In 1902 the merchant Alois Steinmannha purchased the license for the production of the mineral and opened in 1903, in Niederurnen, the "SchweizerischeEternitwerke AG".

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Basic Data
NameAsbestos damages in Casale Monferrato by Eternit, Italy
ProvinceProvince of Alessandria, Piemonte Region
SiteCasale Monferrato
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Mineral processing
Other industries
Manufacturing activities
Specific CommoditiesAsbestos
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 1907 was created the Eternit plant of Casale Monferrato: 94000 square meters of extension, including 50,000 covered.

From 1907 to 1986, the people who worked in the factory have been about 5000, in the 50 employed about 1,000 people, rose to about 2,000 in '65 and stabilized around 1000 until the 80s.

Asbestos was used in thousands of products, it is estimated that in Italy there are 23 million tons of materials consisting of asbestos cement disseminated throughout the territory. The diseases caused by the inhalation of asbestos dusts may be benign or malignant, between benign ones include: pleural effusion, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening.

In Casale Monferrato there were 3000 cases of occurrence of asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma among former workers at the Eternit plant and ordinary citizens and the confirmed victims are 2200.

Project Area (in hectares) 9.40 hectares
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population3.000 (people suffering from mesothelioma and asbestosis among former workers at the Eternit plant and ordinary citizens of Casale Monferrato and neighboring cities)
Start Date01/01/1980
Company Names or State EnterprisesEternit AG from Switzerland
Relevant government actorsProsecutor's Office; Provincial Labour Inspectorate of Alexandria; Ministry of Health; Municipal Administrations of Casale Monferrato; Piemonte Region; Ministry of the Environment; Arpa Piemonte; Asl Piemonte

INAIL (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAfeva - Association of relatives and victims of asbestos,
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Other- Malignant neoplasms of the pleura

- Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung

- Cancer of the ovary and other uterine adnexa

The Report SENTIERI 2011 of the National Institute of Health dedicates a chapter to Casale Monferrato and indicates that the presence of asbestos was the sole motivation for the recognition of Casale Monferrato as a Site of National Interest, SIN. In the territory were observed increases in mortality for various types of cancers, including malignant tumor of the pleura, due to exposure to asbestos.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of AlternativesThe Syndicate and the Afeva - Association of relatives and victims of asbestos in Casale Monferrato - have always pursued with determination and without compromise three main aims: justice, rehabilitation, care and health research. To prevent the disaster of asbestos, it is necessary to banish it all over the world and implement, in each country, a national policy and territorial census to spread the risk, creating a network of disposal centers with public services for the collection of asbestos waste and financial incentives / tax. It should strengthen and coordinate scientific research and monitoring of various experiences and research methods to ensure to all patients care pathways and protocols more efficient and accessible. Finally AfeVA and other environmental groups, calling for a more active role of the European Union in the international fight against asbestos (still in use in three-quarters of the planet) and for environmental rehabilitation in the continent. A required for new directives also to stimulate identification of responsibilities and compensation for damages.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The history of Casale Monferrato is not one of the many, but the symbol of a community marked and destroyed by the cynicism of those who, to accumulate profits, did not hesitate to put at risk the health of employees, their relatives and of those who, however, breathed "the dust of death." The sentence of acquittal of Stephan Schmidheiny of 2014 is an insult to the memory of those who are no more, and the dignity of family members who have never stopped asking for truth and justice. The population Casalese continues his fight for more than 30 years, and despite not having achieved all the desired objectives, the strength and tenacity are taken as an example by those who, in the world, is pursuing the same battles.
Sources and Materials

LAW March 27, 1992, n. 257: Rules relating to the cessation of asbestos.
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Eternit process: the ruling of the judgment of appeal

Court of Appeal of Turin, June 3, 2013
[click to view]


Amianto:responsabilità civile e penale e risarcimento danni, Maggioli Editori, 2012.

La nostra lotta per giustizia, bonifica, ricerca
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L’odore dei soldi. L’Eternit di Casale Monferrato: una storia esemplare di Fabrizio Meni
[click to view]

[click to view]

M. Corlianò, Culture nella polvere. Biopolitica dell'amianto, informazione e potere nella società della conoscenza, FrancoAngeli, 2012.

G.Nebbia, Le dinamiche dello sviluppo industriale in Italia, in Lo straniero n° 170/171,contrasto,2014.

Breve storia dell’amianto e nascita dell’Eternit
[click to view]

Report Sentieri 2011 Studio epidemiologico nazionale dei territori e degli insediamentiesposti a rischio da inquinamento:RISULTATI.
[click to view]


- Eternit Process, on 2000 victims the scythe of prescription
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-Eternit, Casale goes to Strasburgo
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- Eternit Process, Schmidheiny sentenced on appeal to 18 years
[click to view]

Media Links

Indistruttibile: la tragedia dell’amianto a Casale
[click to view]

L’Eternit di Casale Monferrato. Una storia esemplare
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Polvere. Il grande processo all’amianto

Amianto : Polvere, bugie e omertà
[click to view]

Other Documents

The hill of women. Photo reportage about the widows of Casale Monferrato.
[click to view]

Eternit: the industry of death
[click to view]

Torchlight of Afeva
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMartina Di Russo / Translation Federica Giunta, [email protected] (cdca)
Last update28/02/2015