Seveso — An Environmental Assessment
An unforeseeable accident on July 10, 1976, in Seveso, Italy, led to an environmental contamination with caustic reaction products and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Original contamination of vegetation was in the order of O.5 ppm TCDD.
The main effects caused by the contamination were the death of herbivores, due to oral uptake of contaminated vegetation and chloracne in humans, due to dermal contact. The cases considered severe in 1976 recovered within 5 years.
In Zone A (87.3 ha), 736 inhabitants were evacuated, two- thirds of which returned to their homes after decontamination in 1977. Agricultural and horticultural activities were suspended in Zones B (269.4 ha) and safety Zone R (1,430 ha).
By the end of 1976, the contamination had been transferred to the soil, where TCDD was strongly adsorbed, which reduced bioavailability. Plant uptake has not been a significant factor in the movement of TCDD. Moreover, spreading of the contamination by leaching and wind (dust) has been minimal.
Decontamination consists of agronomic measures in areas with low contamination and removal of topsoil where concentrations are high. In 1980–1981 levels of TCDD were practically non-detectable in soil from Zone R or in vegetation from Zones B and R (less than 1 part-per-trillion).
The Seveso accident was neither the most severe TCDD accident nor has it produced the highest environmental contaminations. Zone R is contaminated with other PCDD’s, which are unrelated to the accident, at levels much higher than those of 2,3,7,8-TCDD. Even so, the outlook is very optimistic.
KeywordsCombustion Toxicity Dust Phenol Hydrocarbon
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