Italian Court Convicts Duo For 2,200 Counts Of Asbestos Exposure

On February 13, 2012, Stephan Schidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier were convicted on 2,200 counts of asbestos-related deaths in Turin, Italy. They each received 16 years in prison for negligence. Shareholders at the Eternit building firm, the pair of former building company executives were convicted of breaking safety rules and disregarding regulation protocols. The executives turned a blind eye as thousands of workers came in contact with asbestos fibers at four of the pair's plants. Stephan Schmidheiny is the former owner of a company that makes Eternit fibre cement. Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne was a major shareholder in the same company. They were both found guilty of causing a major environmental disaster, and also found guilty of failing to comply with asbestos-related safety regulations in their buildings. In addition to jail time, the two will also be required to pay civil damages to relatives of victims, likely adding up to tens of millions of euros. De Cartier is 90 years old and Schmidheiny is 64. Usually their verdict would carry a 12-year sentence, but they received 16 years because of the heinous nature of the crimes and the fact that the asbestos in the buildings are continuing to make people ill. The Associated Press reported that Italian Health Minister Ranato Balduzzi said the verdict was “without exaggeration, truly historic.” Schidheiny and de Cartier were also ordered by the Turin judge to pay $32.5 million to the town of Casale Monferrato, and $26 million to the Piedmont region, where their factories were located. Asbestos was used in the construction of these factories and exposed thousands of workers to asbestos-related injury. According to The Daily Telegraph, the defendants' trial is “the biggest of its kind” against anyone for asbestos-related health problems and injuries. It is now known that asbestos can cause serious illness and disease such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. In 1986 Eternit closed its doors and ended operations. Six years later, Italy banned asbestos from being used to insulate buildings of any kind. Asbestos was totally banned from all of Europe in 2005 due to the proven health issues associated with it. Asbestos is currently not banned in the United States, although regulations do exist. According to the US Geological Survey, the United States imports 1,100 tons of asbestos each year. References:
  • Silverstein, Amy. (February 13, 2012). “Eternit building executives convicted for asbestos-related deaths in Italy.” Retrieved on February 17, 2012, from The Global Post.
  • AFP Staff Writer. (February 13, 2012). “Pair sentenced to 16 years in Italy asbestos trial.” Retrieved on February 17, 2012, from The Telegraph.
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