Fondazione Zoé

The asbestos led to the deaths of many workers over the years.

I read the newspapers, with a certain trepidation, about the sentence finally given to the owners of a factory which worked with asbestos which over the years led to the deaths of many workers.
The trepidation stems from a range of factors: firstly is that despite the appearance in 1964 of scientific publication that reported 6 cases of mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura) in miners who had worked in mines in South Africa where asbestos was extracted, it took us almost a good 28 years in Italy, before this mineral was recognized for its adverse health effects and its carcinogenic properties.
A second source of discomfort is due to the fact that the reclamation of this mineral, so ubiquitous in nature, proceeded slowly and harmed the wellbeing of our country terribly in this endeavour, in relation to other developed countries. Mesothelioma, a fatal disease, whose course is little or not at all influenced by physical means (radiotherapy), chemicals (chemotherapy) or surgical, will kill again. In fact, the time between exposure to infection and the onset of disease (latency) is lengthy and could exceed 30 years which means that the disease will reach its peak frequency around the years 2020-2030.
And so we arrived at the third and perhaps the main reason for such trepidation: at the end of the seventies the workers, with my Director at the time, there was a strange case of pleural illness incorrectly diagnosed as chronic empyema. Histological examination of the pleura was telling us that in fact we had removed, in part, a mesotlioma. Nobody knew exactly what it was at that time and curiosity prompted me to consult literature where I found everything to be the same as I mentioned at the beginning about the miners of South Africa, then and there. Over a few years I watched, studied, and worked on other cases of pleural mesothelioma, which became so familiar that with some colleagues we tried to publish an article on the clinical and radiological aspects of this disease in a journal of limited distribution. Instead I would have had to go to the Order of Doctors, I would have had to contact journalists, radio and television to denounce publicly the fact that in some factories there were situations that were causing serious illness in workers, I would finally have had to go to the factories where they worked with asbestos to tell workers to escape from death. Maybe I should have, thus saving many lives, but I did nothing. My major interest since the beginning of my career was to write, publish, and earn titles. What a great folly and what a great, missed opportunity!



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