In the face of the increasing alarm of the Scientific Community and even of the WHO – World Health Organization concerning the very high risks to human health due to the environmental pollution and its specific gender impacts, our country shows a huge delay, not only in terms of coherent actions, but first of all at the cultural level.
Italy has suffered not only heavy infringement procedures connected to the respect of environmental regulations, but has although attracted attention in several occasions and received criticism from international institutions on the issue of gender equality, receiving repeated warnings to respect the international obligations, to promote a substantial gender equality and the full enjoyment by women of their fundamental rights.
In this context, the gender dimension of the environmental issues and the asymmetric impact of the environmental problems on women are topics to be put as a central point on the political agenda, both in terms of specific socio-health impacts as well as of women’s contribution in the building of resistance movements and in the drafting of proposals for a sustainable management of territories and resources.
Examples of serious environmental emergencies on the Italian territory, with effects on the health of the population, can be found starting from the 57 (then reduced to 39) extensive contaminated areas, recognized as S.I.N (Siti di Interesse Nazionale per le bonifiche – Sites of National Interest for environmental remediation) by the Ministry of the Environment starting from 1992.
The epidemiological analysis - including the S.E.N.T.I.E.R.I. Report (the National Epidemiological Study of the Territories and Settlements Exposed to Risks of Pollution – Studio Epidemiologico Nazionale dei Territori e degli Insediamenti Esposti a Rischio di Inquinamento) carried out by the Italian Higher Institute of Health - have shown worrying results concerning a much higher rate of early mortality and tumor incidences due to exposure to pollutants.
Among the results of the S.E.N.T.I.E.R.I. Report (see SENTIERI Report Focus Taranto 2012), the epidemiological data relating to the city of Taranto stands out. It reveals an 80% higher incidence of tumors of the neck of the uterus and an 24% higher incidence of breast tumors compared to the national average, in addition to a general increase of genotoxic damages (diseases transmitted from mother to child).
Similarly, in the Tierra del Fuego Province within Argentina, the study has revealed “as regards the health of children (…) a framework of criticality deserving attention, in particular excesses in shelters of children in their first year of life for all tumors (…) and excesses of tumors of the central nervous system in their first year of life and in the age group 0-14 years.
Italy is the country where the “life in health expectancy” at the birth (medium-serious disability) between 2004 and 2013 decreased by 7 years for males and by more than 10 years for females.
The scientific evidences widely show that the toxic substances present in the air, in the food, in water, generates an increase in the risk not only of cancer or cardiovascular diseases, but also of several other pediatric pathologies and not, among which are dramatically increasing diabetes, infertility, hormonal disruptor pathologies, neurological, cognitive and behavioral disorders.
HEALTH AND MINORS
The last UNICEF report puts Italy in 32° place out of 41 countries of the EU and the OECD as regards the inequality between minors in terms of income, education, health and satisfaction of life.
In Europe it is calculated that each year we lose 13 million points of IQ, while there are no fewer than 59.300 additional cases of mental retardation caused by exposure of the fetus to organo-phosphoric pesticides during pregnancy.
The protection of breastfeeding and neonatal health is another issue of great importance: during the last years numerous scientific studies have shown the presence of dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and other chemicals in the breast milk in harmful concentrations for the newborn.
From this alarm the National Campaign in defense of Breast Milk was promoted in 2012, gathering tens of organizations, committees, doctors and health care workers, including the ISDE (International Society Doctor for Environment).
Also in sporadic cases in which, thanks to the pressure of civil society, special regional laws for the protection of reproductive health have been launched, they however have difficulties in receiving the appropriate financial instruments to become operational.
See the example of the Regional Law no. 40/2014 on endometriosis in Puglia Region, approved in September 2014, for which to date the Observatory has been established, but yet the register, a necessary instrument to quantify the incidence of the disease in the polluted sites, has not been put in place.
WOMEN AT THE FRONT LINE
In this context, there are more and more women at the front line in the fight for the safeguard of the environment, of health and life, through active citizenship, social activation, and institutional pressure. This is demonstrated by the hundreds of women and mother committees which emerged everywhere in Italy to denounce the health impacts of industrial poles, coal-fired power plants, sites of waste storage, etc. In these committees women are the main social component of mobilization.
As a network of women, activists, mothers and female citizens we launch a public call to the local and national institutions, by submitting to the responsible public agencies specific requests having as their objective the integral protection of health and environmental wholesomeness and the full implementation of the precautionary principle provided and regulated by the European Community legislation.
CALL TO THE INSTITUTIONS
As women, activists, mothers and female citizens we launch a call to all the institutions to ensure that:
§ GENERAL PRE-CONDITIONS
-be there a complete assumption of responsibility in relation to the social, health and environmental consequences of the mining, manufacturing and disposal policies by the policy-makers; responsibility that sees in the environmental protection and in the full respect of the precautionary principle the transversal axis of orientation for each development policy;
-choices are taken that are consistent with the commitments made by Italy in signing the Paris Agreement on combating climate change and a concrete energy reprogramming policy for our country will start, having as its object the total decarbonization of the economy by the end of the century, following among others the directions in the document “Energy for Italy” signed by numerous world-known Italian scientists and academics;
- all those measures are adopted that are useful to pass from a linear economy to a circular economy, starting from a proper waste management with full respect of the European hierarchy of waste treatment;
- the combustion processes are gradually abandoned, as they are the first cause of the poor air quality in our country;
- public investment is envisaged for the research and development of new sustainable technologies, for energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in public buildings and for the maintenance of the territory;
- all measures are taken that are necessary to ensure the proper transition of female and male employees involved in the processes of ecological conversion of the economy through income support, professional training and retraining;
- all those measures are taken that, through the practices of natural farming, preserve the wholesomeness of the soils, the biodiversity and the quality of the food supply;
- the system of environmental and health monitoring is radically reformed, by removing the apical figures of the control agencies from the procedures of political appointing and by characterizing the activities through transparency, independence, effectiveness and continuity. The findings of these monitoring surveys must be transposed without hesitation in the formulation of policies for the protection of public health;
- specific protocols of protection are established by virtue of which, in areas that host contaminant plants and in which the measurements of the environmental parameters are within the norm, in presence of epidemiological evidence that detect increased incidence of pathologies, all measures are activated necessary to protect the health of the population and to proceed to the prudential closing of the activities, in respect of the precautionary principle regulated by the European legislation.
§ MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE
- adequate information is given on the environmental risks, in particular to women of childbearing potential;
- participatory institutions are implemented, as provided for in the conventions and international declarations ratified by Italy, based on inclusive criteria and with deliberative character and that take into particular consideration the gender perspective;
- specific benchmarks on gender mainstreaming are provided in the preparation of impact studies and in the implementation of policies for the management of territories;
- the transposition, the systematization and/or the institutionalisation of data and documentation collection systems is promoted, relating to emergencies and to social conflicts linked to the defense of the territory and the health and to independent environmental and health monitoring - collected and systematized through participatory methodologies by organizations of environmental protection, territorial committees and independent study centers;
- the recommendations of civil society about the implementation of the principles and measures laid down in the conventions and by international platforms ratified by Italy are transposed, like the Beijing Platform for Action (in particular the strategic objectives K.1-K.2-K.3) and the CEDAW, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations that include goal 5 for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
§ MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN THE WOMEN’S HEALTH
- the instruments provided for by the laws approved for the protection of the environment and of the reproductive, neonatal and infant health are implemented and financed, as in the case of Regional Law no. 40/2014 on endometriosis of the Puglia Region, so as to provide dedicated paths and free of charge for women suffering from endometriosis and infertility in relation not only to the Apulian territory, but to all contaminated territories at national level;
- with specific reference to the site of Taranto and in cases where there is a serious and acclaimed environmental and health emergency, provisions are taken for the immediate adoption of all the necessary measures to protect the health of the population and for the closure of the polluting sources, in respect of the precautionary principle regulated by the European legislation (apart from the limits of the law and even where it proves to be respected);
- epidemiological maps are created for the territories in which increases in mortality and diseases have been highlighted and adequate information about it is given to the citizenship;
- given the concrete possibility to circumvent the monitoring procedures of polluting installations, it is called for the adoption of independent, transparent, effective and continuous control tools, strengthened through the forecast of institutes of social control on monitoring activities, to be applied to all plants that are sources of dangerous and carcinogenic pollutant substances, including dioxin, as well as the closure and subsequent conversion to non polluting productions of those plants for which the non respect of the thresholds of contaminants envisaged by law is evident;
- the requests formalized by the Campaign in defense of breast milk are transposed and implemented, including:
1. Ratification of the Stockholm Convention;
2. Forecasting and realization of biomonitoring/ecotoxicology tests to breast milk and umbilical cord blood’s samples;
3. Drafting, discussion and approval of a government bill that foresees the creation of a brand dioxin free for food.
The call “THE GUARDIANS OF THE EARTH – Women’s health is the future of the planet” aims to open a public debate on the relationship between environment and health, with particular reference to feminine, reproductive, neonatal and infant health.
The organizations part of the coalition are engaged in many activities of incidence and social articulation and in the building of a national campaign of institutional pressure aimed at the transposition of the objectives of the campaign.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The coalition of the signatory organizations is engaged in the building of a national campaign to promote women’s health and a safe environment.
Take an active part in the construction work of the campaign!
Participate in the meetings and activities!
If you are part of an organization or a committee, please join the campaign and help us to
disseminate activities and objectives!
THE FIRST SIGNATORIES:
AIDOS – Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo
AOI – Associazione delle organizzazioni italiane di cooperazione e solidarietà internazionale
ARCS – Arci Cultura e Sviluppo
Associazione Aria Nova Pederobba
Associazione Le cento madrine del sorriso
Associazione MINERVA Pelti
Associazione Noi Genitori di Tutti
Associazione Nuovo Senso Civico
Associazione Zero waste Lazio – Tv
Comitato Pendolari FR8aCarrozza linea ferroviaria Roma – Nettuno
Campagna per la difesa del latte materno dai contaminanti ambientali
Casa Internazionale delle Donne
Centro Documentazione Conflitti Ambientali
Centro Studi Difesa Civile · Città delle Mamme · Cittadinanzattiva · Cittadinanzattiva Puglia
Comitato mamme No MUOS Sicilia
Comitato No elettrodotto Villanova – Gissi
Coordinamento Nazionale No Triv ·
COSPE – Cooperazione per Sviluppo Paesi Emergenti
D.i.Re. – Donne in Rete contro la Violenza
FIMP – Federazione Italiana Medici Pediatri
Fondazione Pangea Onlus
Forum Italiano Movimenti per l’Acqua
IBFAN Italia International Baby Food Action Network
ISDE Italia – Medici per l’Ambiente
Istituto Ramazzini di Bologna
Laboratorio Carte in Regola
MAMI – Movimento Allattamento Materno Italiano
Mamme No inceneritore di Firenze
Mamme per la Salute e l’Ambiente Venafro
Mamme per la vita – Saponara
Movimento Legge Rifiuti Zero per l’economia circolare
Movimento No Ombrina
No Coke Alto Lazio
Rete delle Reti femminili
SIPNEI – Società Italiana di Psico Neuro Endocrino Immunologia
UDI – Unione Donne in Italia –
Associazione di genitori di bambini oncologici per la Prevenzione e Lotta ai Tumori Infantili
Ya Basta Caminantes – Padova