Dioxin mystery arouses Europe

A European-wide hunt for a mysterious cargo of potentially toxic waste has begun to focus on a pollution-laden zone on the border between East and West Germany.

In recent weeks, reports Monitor contributor David Fouquet, there has been widespread alarm among Europeans in several countries that some 5,000 pounds of dangerous dioxin would be discharged or treated in their territory. The concern has centered in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and West Germany ever since reports surfaced that a shipment of 41 barrels of toxic waste from the contaminated Italian town of Seveso had been stored in northeastern France while awaiting transport to an unknown destination. French authorities seeking information on the whereabouts of the load jailed the president of a specialized Marseilles firm charged with the secret disposal of the material.

A deal had been negotiated between the operator of the Seveso plant, a subsidiary of the giant Swiss multinational Hoffmann-la Roche, and a West German firm that had then hired the Marseilles subcontractor to actually transport and dispose of the highly poisonous substance.

On Monday, Belgian authorities raced to Antwerp to check out a ship on the possibility the waste might have been incinerated and dumped in the North Sea. No trace of dioxin was found. Since then, despite the early denial of both East and West German authorities, attention has focused on several sites along their common border which are heavily used as dumps for nuclear and other toxic wastes.

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