Support our mission
A boy plugs his nose Tuesday as he walks by a pile of garbage that has sat uncollected for weeks in the quaint seaside town of Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples, Italy. The city is again besieged by a trash crisis as landfills are filled to the brim and collectors have no place to dump the trash.

A boy plugs his nose Tuesday as he walks by a pile of garbage that has sat uncollected for weeks in the quaint seaside town of Pozzuoli, a suburb of Naples, Italy. The city is again besieged by a trash crisis as landfills are filled to the brim and collectors have no place to dump the trash. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — The U.S. Embassy in Italy issued an advisory Tuesday warning U.S. citizens of possible health risks due to the rotting trash strewn throughout Naples and its suburbs.

“Some residents are setting trash piles on fire. U.S. citizens traveling to or through the area may encounter mounds of garbage, open fires with potentially toxic fumes ...,” reads a portion of the “warden message” posted on the embassy’s Web site.

“Garbage collection has been disrupted in Naples and the region of Campania since May 2007, leading to a waste disposal emergency as large piles of trash lie uncollected for weeks,” according to the message.

Local physicians indicated airborne particles and fumes from fires can aggravate respiratory problems. Depending on what is in the garbage, a fire could release toxic substances into the air, the embassy message states.

The embassy advisory appears to conflict with a message published in the Naval Support Activity Naples newspaper three weeks ago by U.S. Navy Dr. (Cmdr.) Walter Dalitsch, with the military hospital in Naples. He’d written that fumes from burning garbage aren’t as hazardous as perceived.

“Fortunately, nearly all of our exposure to [pollutants from burning trash] is negligible by the time it reaches the residents,” Dalitsch wrote. “The human nose is a highly sensitive organ, and just because the odor is foul does not mean it necessarily represents a health hazard.”

He declined to comment Tuesday.

Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, spokeswoman for Navy Region Europe, said the two messages aren’t in conflict.

“They’re both just advisories to potential risks,” she said. “We have an obligation to the people here to alert them, and this is our safeguard. There is no cause for alarm.”

Naples and its surrounding areas are home to roughly 9,000 U.S. and NATO servicemembers and civilians and their families.

The Navy has environmental health experts in Naples who monitor the local environment for potential health risks and work closely with local government officials to mitigate any hazards, Snyder said.

The embassy message doesn’t come as a surprise to Petty Officer 2nd Class Faouzi Kawkab, 39.

“The garbage sucks. … Ever since I came to Italy in 2001, I’m always in the hospital, always sick with allergies and skin problems like rashes, and the water is not good,” he said. “You cannot breathe correctly, especially with the smoke coming from the trash. It’s nasty stuff.”

Italian authorities generally do a good job of collecting garbage in the tourist zones, including the port and central historic district, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, the Amalfi coast and the islands of Capri and Ischia, the embassy message states.

Italian health officials reported they have detected no outbreaks of infectious disease related to the garbage crisis, and are disinfecting areas where garbage has piled up.

Embassy officials urged Americans to register with embassy and consulate officers, either online at https://travelregistration.state.gov, by phone or in person to get access to updated information on travel and security.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up