Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at


1. ICMESA (Industrie Chimiche Mendionali SocietÓ Azionaria) was originally established in Naples during 1921, but its plant there was destroyed during World War II. In 1946 a new plant was opened in Meda, and the company's name was changed to "Industrie Chimiche Meda SocietÓ Azionaria" (thereby preserving the old acronym). At the time of the gas release, ICMESA employed 163 people. It was believed that the factory produced intermediatest, - chemicals used in the production of perfumes, flavourings, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical products. Recently, however, some doubt has been cast on whether production was exclusively in the civilian sector; the Region of Lombardy has set up a commission to investigate this and other obscure aspects of the Seveso case (see Chronology, November 1993). Givaudan SA, one of ICMESA's main customers, became a major shareholder in 1965 and took over the firm entirely four years later. From 1963, Givaudan's parent company was Hoffman-La Roche, a Basle-based multinational group. This group was founded in 1896 as a pharmaceutical concern, transformed in 1919 into a joint stock company, and eventually expanded its activities to include production of chemicals, perfumes, diagnostic instruments, and plant-protection products (Roche Magazin 1986).

2. As shown by the Karin B incident (see below), externalization of waste disposal is not inevitable in Italy or elsewhere.

3. The Flixborough explosion occurred on a rural site and resulted in 28 deaths and 36 injuries among the workforce. Outside the plant, 53 members of the public received major injuries and hundreds more sustained minor injuries. The plant was destroyed and close to two thousand houses, shops, and factories were damaged (Perrow 1984: 111). The legal frame for the implementation of the Seveso Directive in the UK (the so-called CIMAH regulations) is based on acts and actions taken according to the recommendations of the Flixborough accident investigations (Drogaris 1991: 1-2; see also Myers and Read 1992).

4. The Treaty of Paris (1951) established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The first Treaty of Rome (1957) established the European Economic Community (EEC), and the second Treaty of Rome (1957) set up the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). These three treaties, which are the legal basis of the European Community (EC), were originally signed by six countries - the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Ireland joined the Community in 1973; Greece joined in 1981; and Portugal and Spain in 1986. The three original Communities (ECSC, EEC, Euratom) have been governed by a single Commission and a single Council since 1967. The European Parliament (originally called the Assembly) and the Court of Justice have been common to all three communities since 1958. In recent years, there have been moves toward converting what is now an economic union into a political one (e.g. the Maastricht Treaty), and the term European Community has been replaced by European Union.

5. New provisions for issuing and administering EC regulations have come into force since the Seveso Directive was adopted. In 1987, the European Single Act, which had been signed by the 12 Member States in the previous year, came into force, extending the Community's range of competencies and introducing changes in the relationships between EC institutions. In February 1992 the Member States signed the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, which "marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen" (Treaty on European Union 1992: Title I Common Provisions, article A). This new treaty substantially revised the Paris and Rome treaties, expanded their provisions on a number of matters, and redefined some of the tasks and relationships of the European institutions. The treaty includes a number of protocols, some establishing special conditions for particular countries.

6. Information that shall be provided to the public now includes the following:

7. A recent anonymous news report in Science (10 September 1993, 261: 1383) indicates that elevated rates of several types of cancer have been found in the contaminated regions around Seveso. The researcher who uncovered this information intends to release the results of a 20-year follow-up study of Seveso residents that will, it is hoped, shed additional light on these findings. The US Environmental Protection Agency has also issued an extensive review of evidence about dioxin that questions whether cancer is the main associated hazard but suggests that foetal harm and other effects may be much more prevalent. The overall conclusion is that part of dioxin's deadly reputation may no longer be justified but that there is increasing evidence for a "cascade" of non-cancerous health effects in people, possibly connected with trace contaminants in food (New York Times, 11 May 1994).

8. However, their interpretation is not unproblematic; the history of the Hiroshima data is an example of serious re-evaluation of basic parameters (Marshall 1992).


Baram, M. 1991. "Rights and duties concerning the availability of environmental risk information to the public." In: R.E. Kasperson and P.J.M. Stallen, eds. Communicating Risks to the Public. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Barton, A.H. 1969. Communities in Disaster: A Sociological Analysis of Collective Stress Situations. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

Bertazzi, P.A., A.C. Pesatori, D. Consonni, A. Tironi, M.T. Landi, and C. Zocchetti. 1993. "Cancer incidence in a population accidentally exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-paradioxin." Epidemiology 4(5): 398-406.

Centro Informativo Karin B. 1992. Videotape (T. Tartari director). Servizio Protezione Civile della Regione Emilia-Romagna.

Conti, L. 1977. Visto da Seveso. Milan: Feltrinelli.

Corriere della Sera 1992. "Diossina di Seveso ritrovata nell'ex Rdt." 12 December.

Couch S.R., and J.S. Kroll-Smith (eds.). 1991. Communities at Risk. New York: Peter Lang.

Council Directive of 24 June 1982 on the major accident hazards of certain industrial activities (82/501/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 230, 5 August 1982.

Council Directive of 19 March 1987 amending Directive 82/501/EEC on the major accident hazards of certain industrial activities (87/216/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 85, 28 March 1987.

Council Directive of 24 November 1988 amending Directive 82/501/EEC on the major accident hazards of certain industrial activities (88/610/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 336, 7 December 1988.

Council Directive of 12 June 1989 concerning the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (89/391/ EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 183, 29 June 1989.

Council Directive of 27 November 1989 on information to the public concerning health protection measures and the behaviour to adopt in the event of a radioactive emergency (89/618/Euratom). Official Journal of the European Communities L 357, 7 December 1989.

Council Directive on the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace (89/654/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 393, 30 December 1989.

Council Directive of 23 April 1990 on the contained use of genetically modified microorganisms (90/219/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 117, 8 May 1990.

Council Directive of 7 June 1990 on the freedom of access to information of the environment (90/313/EEC). Official Journal of the European Communities L 158, 23 June 1990.

De Marchi, B. 1991a. "Public information about major accident-hazards: Legal requirements and practical implementation." Industrial Crisis Quarterly 5: 239-251.

De Marchi, B. 1991b. "The Seveso Directive: An Italian pilot study in enabling communication." Risk Analysis 11 (2): 207-215.

De Marchi, B., S.O. Funtowicz, and J.R. Ravetz. 1993. The Management of Uncertainty in the Communication of Major Hazards. EUR Report, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Douglas, M., and A. Wildavsky. 1982. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers. Berkeley: University of (California.

Drogaris, G. 1991. "Controlling run-away reaction hazards within the framework of the Seveso Directive." Technical Note No. 1.91.02, ISEI/SER 1977/91.

Drogaris, G. 1993. Major Accident Reporting System. Lessons Learned from Accident Notified. CDCIR, JRC, Commission of the European Communities, EUR 13385 EN, Office for Official Publications of the EC, Luxembourg.

Edelstein, M.R. 1988. Contaminated Communities: The Social and Psychological Impacts of Residential Toxic Exposure. Boulder: Westview.

Egidi, D. 1993. "Aspetti tecnici ed organizzativi della gestione commissariale dell'emergenza navi." In: Proceedings of the National Conference Dall'emergenza navi al governo del ciclo dei rifiuti industriali, Bologna, 11-13 June 1992.

Erikson, K. 1976. Everything in Its Path. Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Funtowicz, S.O., and J.R. Ravetz. 1985. "Three types of risk assessment." In: C. Whipple and V.T. Covello, eds. Risk Analysis in the Private Sector. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 217231.

Funtowicz, S.O., and J.R. Ravetz. 1990. Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Funtowicz, S.O., and J.R. Ravetz. 1996. "Global risk, uncertainty, and ignorance." In: J.X. Kasperson and R.E. Kasperson, eds. Global Environmental Risk. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, forthcoming.

Funtowicz, S.O., S.M. MacGill, and J.R. Ravetz. 1989a. "Quality assessment for radiological model parameters." Journal of Radiological Protection 9(4): 263-27().

Funtowicz, S.O., S.M. MacGill, and J.R. Ravetz. 1989b. "The management of uncertainty in radiological data." Journal of Radiological Protection 9(4): 257-261.

Funtowicz, S.O., S.M. MacGill, and J.R. Ravetz. 1989c. "The propagation of parameter uncertainties in radiological assessment models." Journal of Radiological Protection 9(4): 271-280.

Gambino, M., U. Gumpel, and S. Novelli. 1993. "L'nganno di Seveso. Che cosa c'era nel reattore. Inchiesta/Documenti su una catastrofe." Avvenimenti 20: 7-14.

Haastrup, P., and S.O. Funtowicz. 1992. "Accident generating systems and chaos: a dynamic study of accident time series." Reliability Engineering and System Safety 35: 31-37.

Hay, A. 1982. The Chemical Scythe. New York: Plenum.

Keynes, J.M. 1921. A Treatise on Probability. New York: St. Martin's Press, reprinted 1952.

Magni, V. 1993. "Seveso chiama giustizia." Il Corriere della Sera, 29 March.

Marshall, E. 1992. "Study casts doubt on Hiroshima data." Science 258: 394.

Mastroiacovo, P., A. Spagnolo, E. Marni, L. Meazza, R. Bertolini, and G. Segni. 1988. "Birth defects in the Seveso area after TCDD contamination." Journal of the American Medical Association 259: 1668-1672.

Mocarelli, P., A. Marocchi, P. Brambilla, P.M. Gerthoux, L. Colombo, A. Mondonico, and L. Meazza. 1991. "Effects of dioxin exposure in humans at Seveso, Italy." In: Banbury Report 35: Biological Basis for Risk Assessment of Dioxin and Related Compounds. Cold Spring Harbor, New York: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Myers, B., and P. Read. 1992. "Emergency planning and pollution." In: Malcolm Newson, Jeremy Barnes, Alan Davison, Terry Douglas, Ian Fells, David Harte, Mark Macklin, Bill Myers, Stan Openshaw, Paul Read, and Anthony Stevenson, eds. Managing the Human Impact on the Natural Environment: Patterns and Processes. London: Belhaven Press, pp. 196-210.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 1989. Accidents Involving Hazardous Substances. Environmental Monographs No. 24. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 1990. Atelier sur la Communication d'Informations au Public et le R˘le des Travailleurs dans la PrÚvention des Accidents et l'Intervention. Environmental Monographs No. 29. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 1992. Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response. Environmental Monograph No. 51. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Otway, H.H., and A. Amendola. 1989. "Major hazard information policy in the European Community: Implications for risk analysis." Risk Analysis 9: 505-512.

Otway, H.H. and B. Wynne. 1989. "Risk communication: Paradigm and paradox." Risk Analysis 9: 141-145.

Perrow, C. 1984. Normal Accidents. Living with High-Risk Technologies. New York: Basic Books.

Pocchiari, F., V. Silano, and G. Zapponi. 1987. "The Seveso accident and its aftermath." In: P. Kleindorfer and H. Kunreuther, eds. Insuring and Managing Hazardous Risks: From Seveso to Bhopal and Beyond. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 60-78.

Quarantelli, H.L. 1987. "What should we study? Questions and suggestions for researchers about the concept of disaster." International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 5: 7-32.

Quarantelli, H.L. 1988. "Disaster crisis management: A summary of research findings." Journal of Management Studies 25: 373-385.

Regione Lombardia. 1977. Bollettino Ufficiale Anno VI, Supplemento straordinario al no. 28. Provvedimenti per Seveso 14 July 1977.

Regione Lombardia. 1989. "Note sui primi risulatati cello studio di MortalitÓ nell'area interessata dall'evento Icmesa." Settore SanitÓ e Igiene. Milan, 5 May (Mimeo.)

Regione Lombardia. 1992. Inventario dell'archivio dell' Ufficio speciale di Seveso. Vols. 1 and 2. Milan.

Repubblica. 1991. "Vale due milioni l'incubo diossina." 19 September.

Rocca, F. 1980. I giorni della diossina. Supplemento a 'Quaderni Bianchi' no. 2/1980. Milan: Centro studi 'At Grandi'.

Roche Magazin. 1986. Ten Years After. No. 27 (May).

Royal Society Study Group. 1992. Risk Analysis Perception Management. London: Royal Society.

Schneider, K. 1992. "Decision to burn dioxin divides Arkansas town." New York Times, 28 October.

Susman, P., P. O'Keefe, and B. Wisner. 1983. "Global disasters, a radical interpretation." In: K. Hewitt, ed. Interpretations of Calamity. Boston: Allen and Unwin, pp. 263-283.

Treaty on European Union. 1992. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Turner, B.A. 1978. Man-Made Disasters. London: Wykeham.

Ufficio speciale per i programmi della L.R. 17.01. 1977 no. 2, 1984. "L'evento Seveso al gennaio 1984." (Mimeo.)

Wynne, B. 1987. Implementation of Article 8 of the Directive 82/501/EEC: A Study of Public Information. Commission of the European Communities contract 86-B-6641-11-006-11N, Final Report.

Wynne, B. 1989. "Frameworks of rationality in risk management: Towards the testing of naive sociology." In: J. Brown, ed. Environmental Threats. Perception, Analysis and Management. London: Belhaven Press, pp. 33-47.

Contents - Previous - Next