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Environmental Health Education For Asbestos-Contaminated Communities In Italy: The Casale Monferrato Case Study

D. Marsili, Adriana Canepa, Nicola Mossone, P. Comba
Published 2019 · Political Science, Medicine

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Background: Environmental health education contributes towards increasing awareness of communities to prevent exposure to hazardous substances. Casale Monferrato, the operating site for the Eternit asbestos-cement factory from 1907 to 1986, is a prioritized asbestos-contaminated site for remediation in Italy. The area is prone to severe asbestos-related diseases. About 50 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in Casale Monferrato annually; mesothelioma has been shown to be caused by occupational, environmental and domestic asbestos exposure. Objectives: The goal of this paper is to analyze the Casale Monferrato case study in terms of youth engagement in environmental health education initiatives on asbestos risk and health impact. The paper aims at underlining the lessons learned in order to share the success of this initiative with other communities living in asbestos-contaminated sites in different countries. Methods: Peer education methodology has been used through the Asbestos Classroom to involve teachers, students and other local stakeholders in training activities, in selection of the contents for educational materials and interactive tools, as well as in choosing the presentation process for the aforementioned knowledge sharing instruments. Findings: From November 2014 to June 2018, 185 high school students and teachers were trained through the Asbestos Classroom. Through December 2018, they trained 3,241 classroom visitors. The Classroom relies on an inclusive participative process in which young people play a key role in the network of relationships within their community. Conclusions: The paper corroborates the importance of engaging the educational system in communication efforts aimed at fostering collective awareness on environmental risk and health-related impacts for communities living in industrially contaminated sites. Considering the global dimension of the asbestos contamination and disease burden, this experience might be of relevance both in countries that banned asbestos and in those where asbestos is not yet prohibited.
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