Italians gasp as rubbish burns

The situation in Naples has been  exacerbated by a blockade of the city’s Pianuro refuse site by locals who fear mismanagement at the plant has already allowed the cancer-causing chemicals to be released into the environment.

Italy’s Higher Health Institute has already found evidence of an increase cancer rates in the region.

Alarms were also sounded by a report in medical journal The Lancet Oncology in 2004 that identified a "triangle of death" east of Naples where toxic waste was linked to a higher incidence of cancer, especially liver cancer.

But experts at the Naples Cancer Institute warn that if people burn their own rubbish the situation will get far worse.

In addition, Campania has the "eco-balls" scandal to contend with.

Some rubbish is supposed to be sorted at the region’s Caivano treatment centre into solid and liquid waste, then compacted into "eco-balls", which are piled into a pyramid to be safely burned.

But according to Antonio Marfella at the Naples Cancer Institute "these can’t be incinerated because the waste wasn’t sorted into solid and liquid. And if you let them decompose, they can produce a toxic liquid that can seep into the ground and enter the water system".

Official figures say there are 400,000 tonnes of eco-balls like those at Caivano in the Naples region. It emerged this week that the plant had now run out of space,

And as fears grow over the public health threat, the EU is set to intervene with huge fines, a spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas warned last week.

A "waste disposal state of emergency," was first decreed in the Naples region in 1994, and it has been renewed annually ever since.

Fingers are mostly pointed at the Camorra and the crooked politicians in its pay. The crime syndicate is accused of sabotaging new refuge disposal contracts as it seeks to profit to the tune of £2bn a year with its own clandestine trade in waste disposal.

Long-running disputes have seen refuse processing sites closed or blockaded. While over £1bn set aside for the construction of new ones has mysteriously vanished. Those that have been built have not worked properly.

Italian environment minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio has said that the government had formed a new commission to finally sort out what he considered to be "one of Italy’s greatest scams".

Mafia expert Professor Donato Masciandaro of Milan’s Bocconi University told the Telegraph: "If you’re not Italian, in fact if you’re not from Naples, it’s hard to understand how all this could have been allowed to happen. But the when there’s a major problem like this the mafia can make money out of it."

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