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Caffaro industry contamination in Brescia, Italy


In the city of Brescia, a few hundred meters from the historic centre, the chemical industry Caffaro (since 1985 owned by Snia-BPD, then Snia S.p.A.) has been operating since 1906. The industry produced caustic soda (NaOH), from the 30s the activities were dedicated mainly to the fabrication of chlorine organ compounds, specialized from 1938 to 1984 in PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The latter was the exclusive production in Italy thanks to the patent granted by Monsanto.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Caffaro industry contamination in Brescia, Italy
State or province:Lombardy Region
Location of conflict:Brescia
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
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Land
Chemical products
Industrial waste
Polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Initially the Caffaro produced caustic soda (NaOH), used to fabric soaps, textiles, paper. From the 30s the activities were mainly dedicated to the fabrication of chlorine derivatives, all substances toxic, carcinogenic and non-degradable. Some of them are known as POPs (persistent organic pollutants) or “Dirty Dozens” [10].

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Project area:700
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:25,000
Start of the conflict:14/08/2001
Company names or state enterprises:Caffaro S.p.A from Italy
Snia S.p.A. from Italy
Relevant government actors:Brescia Municipality, Lombardy Region, Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, Lombardy Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA Lombardia), Local Health Unit of Brescia (ASL Brescia)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comitato popolare contro l’inquinamento zona Caffaro ( ; Rete Antinocività Brescia ( ) ; Comitato per l’ambiente Brescia sud (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsAfter 2001, several analysis of the soil have been carried out by the regional agency for the protection of the environment (ARPA). The studies proved the high PCB contamination of the area up to a maximum of 8.330 μg/kg (law limits 1-60 μg/kg). The dioxins pollution up to 3.322 ngTEQ/kg (law limits 10 ngTEQ/kg) [11]. Other substances highly contaminating lands, groundwater and surface water: mercury, carbon tetrachloride and DDT [12].
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Deaths
Other Health impactsIncreased incidence of cancer among the population of Brescia is demonstrated by the reports of the National Health Institute, ISS (2011, 2014) [13].
In addition, scientific studies provided some evidence for associations between PCBs exposure and the higher risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) [14].
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsEconomic damages for the loss of property value (land, houses).
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:Local committees (Comitato popolare contro l’inquinamento della zona Caffaro; Comitato per l’ambiente Brescia Sud; Genitori scuola Deledda; Rete Antinocività Brescia) have been demanding for years a virtuous process for the reclamation of the Caffaro Site.
Committes demand a general reclamation plan that should include different polluted area (industrial site, groundwater, public and agricultural lands, private lands..). A plan of this magnitude requires the activation of extraordinary scientific and technical resources as well as a consistent and adequate funding. The reclamation project, including the re-use of the industrial site, should have access to European funds. It should be developed and monitored by a Technical and Scientific Committee, composed of independent experts. The institution responsible for the reclamation plan should be supported by political forces and should inform citizens and involve local committees in the reclamation process.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Over the years, local independent environmentalism has obtained significant results. Firstly, bringing out a disastrous environmental pollution remained hidden for decades. Secondly, protecting local population affected by pollution, through the dissemination of information and the pressure on institutions to stop the serious exposure to risk for human health. However, the most fundamental issue regard the reclamation process. Currently, although there were commitments for remediation circumscribed in some areas, there is not a general plan of reclamation and allocation of related resources, (needs estimated at hundreds of millions of euro). In addition, there is a lack of interest by the institutions to solve the serious problem.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[4] Ordinanza Comune di Brescia, 2002
[click to view]

Dlgs 152 del 3 aprile 2006, parte quarta, titolo quinto, Bonifiche dei siti inquinati, e successive modifiche ed integrazioni.

[2] L. 179 del 31 luglio 2002, Disposizioni in materia ambientale, art. 14.
[click to view]

[5] Ordinanza Comune di Brescia, 2014
[click to view]

[7] Regione Lombardia, bollettino ufficiale. Caffaro Accordo Programma
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1]Marino Ruzzenenti, Un secolo di cloro e… PCB. Storia delle industrie Caffaro di Brescia, Jaca Book, Milano 2001, pp. 595
[click to view]

Marino Ruzzenenti, Caffaro di Brescia: un secolo di veleni, dossier di “Medicina Democratica”, n. 139/140, novembre-dicembre 2001/gennaio-febbraio 2002, pp. 28-64

[3]Comitato Tecnico
[click to view]

[8] Article May 2014
[click to view]

[10] POPs regulation
[click to view]

[14] National Health Institute - ISS Report, SENTIERI, 2014
[click to view]

Asl Brescia, Il caso Caffaro. Un'analisi oggettiva, Asl Brescia, 3 maggio 2002, pp. 32.

[6] Article "PCDD/F and PCB in human serum of differently exposed population

groups of an Italian city", Chemosphere, 2008
[click to view]

Marino Ruzzenenti, Caffaro: un secolo di veleni, in “Libertaria”, anno 5, n. 1, gennaio/marzo 2003, pp. 24-34.

Marino Ruzzenenti, Brescia – “caso Caffaro”: l'inquinamento dai terreni alla falda idrica, “Medicina Democratica”, n. 173/175, maggio-ottobre 2007, pp. 31-42.

Le zone morte: 5. Il caso “Caffaro”di Brescia, 2 giugno 2013, il Blog della Società Chimica Italiana
[click to view]

Comitato popolare contro l'inquinamento “zona Caffaro”, Il “caso PCB”. Tutto quello che i cittadini devono sapere (e che l'Asl avrebbe dovuto spiegare), Brescia, 18 aprile 2002, pp. 16.

Celestino Panizza e Paolo Ricci, Contaminazione da PCB: Brescia è piú inquinata di Seveso, in “Epidemiologia & Prevenzione”, n. 26, maggio-giugno 2002, pp. 145-153.

[9] Article on the lawsuit 2014
[click to view]

Minister of Environment website, Reclamation activities
[click to view]

Ambiente - description of the case and documentation
[click to view]

Local Health Unit of Brescia (ASL Brescia)
[click to view]

[11] History of the Caffaro industry
[click to view]

[12] Lombardy Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA Lombardia)
[click to view]

Radio onda d'urto website
[click to view]

Municipality of Brescia website
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Cittadini Reattive website
[click to view]

Rai tv documentary
[click to view]

Documentaries on the case
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Marino Ruzzenenti (Fondazione Luigi Micheletti, Brescia), Marianna CDCA (
Last update18/08/2019
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