This should not have happened. Stephan Schmidheiny, a billionaire from Switzerland, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for causing the deaths of many people due to asbestos exposure.
This trial in Italy is of great significance as it addresses workplace deaths. Schmidheiny was a major shareholder of Eternit Italia, a cement company. The recent news reveals that the court found him guilty of causing the deaths of 392 people in Casale Monferrato, a town where only 60 of them were factory workers, while the rest were residents of the town.
The billionaire’s company utilized asbestos, a mineral with fire-resistant fibers commonly employed in cement for its durability. However, asbestos presents severe health risks, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Due to these hazards, its use is regulated or banned in many countries. Proper handling and removal procedures are crucial to minimize exposure.
We cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, as Schmidheiny had been operating his plants since 1976.
Furthermore, the judges ruled that he must pay €50 million (equivalent to £43 million) as provisional damages to Casale Monferrato’s local authority. Additionally, he was ordered to pay €30 million to the Italian state and €500 million to a local association representing the relatives of asbestos victims.
When this event occurred, Schmidheiny was held personally responsible instead of the company. The billionaire’s lawyer stated that he is actively working on the case and is relieved to know that it has not been classified as intentional murder. The prosecutor, Gianfranco Colace, was aware that asbestos was the cause of death and accused Schmidheiny of using the substance despite knowing its hazardous nature.
One of the victims was Rosa Grangia, who passed away at the age of 76 in 2004. She resided in a nearby village, approximately 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) away from the closed factory in Casale Monferrato. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer and succumbed to the disease just six months later.
The process of dying from asbestos-related illnesses can be slow, affecting anyone who came into contact with the factories. As the factories’ waste was crushed outside, asbestos dust would spread throughout the town. In the 1980s, there was a sudden increase in cases of a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos.
To avoid asbestos exposure, take these steps:
- Be aware of older buildings and materials that may contain asbestos.
- If you suspect asbestos, hire a professional for inspection.
- Avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials.
- Hire trained professionals for safe removal or repairs.
- Regularly maintain asbestos-containing materials.
- Use personal protective equipment if working in a potentially asbestos-exposed environment.
- Educate yourself and others about the risks and precautions associated with asbestos.