Seveso chemical disaster

On July 10, 1976, a valve broke at the Industrie Chimiche Meda Società Azionaria (ICMESA) chemical plant in Meda, just north of Milan, Italy. This accident resulted in the release of a chemical cloud containing the highly toxic dioxin TCDD. Winds carried the cloud southeast, where it contaminated land and vegetation in the municipality of Seveso and other communities in the area. Hoffmann-La Roche, the company that ran the ICMESA plant to produce pesticides, only admitted the accident almost one week after it had happened. By that time, the first cases of severe dioxin poisoning had already been reported, a lot of vegetation around the plant had wilted, and thousands of animals had died. As a consequence, more than 600 people had to be evacuated from their homes and as many as 2000 were treated for dioxin poisoning. The long-term damage from the dioxin contamination can still only be estimated.
Seveso became one of worst industrial accidents worldwide and triggered immediate protest against the chemical industry for better safety regulations. In Europe, Seveso prompted the adoption of so-called “EU-Seveso” directives, first in 1982 and revised in 1996, which were aimed at the prevention and control of such accidents.

Further Readings: 
  • Bertazzi, Pier Alberto. "Long-term effects of chemical disasters. Lessons and results from Seveso." The Science of the Total Environment 106 (1991): 5-20. doi:10.1016/0048-9697(91)90016-8.
  • Koch, Egmont R. and Fritz Vahrenholt. Seveso ist überall – Die tödlichen Risiken der Chemie. Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1978.