A 58-year-old man and his wife, 50, are suing the owners of a shoe factory that operated from 1985 to 2009, the attorney-general, and the Latsia municipality, alleging that carcinogens used as raw materials by the factory, which was licensed to operate in a residential area, caused their son’s leukaemia.
Astrasol, the factory that stirred controversy in the turn of the previous decade, was licensed to operate as a shoe factory by the Latsia municipality in 1985.
Over more than two decades of operation, more than 50 people were said to have been affected – some died of cancer, while others are still suffering from cancer, leukaemia, or other conditions.
Following the factory’s closure – for money troubles – in 2009, some 22 lawsuits were filed against the owners.
The suits will be heard together, and the first plaintiff, Theofanis Chrysanthou, filed the opening statement at the Nicosia district court on Friday morning.
“I am 58 years old, and my wife is 50,” he read from a written statement.
“From 2002 to 2004 we rented, along with our three-year-old boy, a house in the Latsia area, some 15 metres away from the factory in question. It operated from 6am to 1pm, causing terrible noise, smoke from its chimneys, and nasty smells.”
The man described starting to suffer constant coughing fits, difficulty in breathing, itching on his body, and headaches.
“In December 2002, our son started displaying breathing problems, and his pediatrician prescribed antibiotics, but the symptoms returned after a brief recovery,” Chrysanthou said.
Months later, the parents noticed swelling on the boy’s neck, which the same pediatrician waved off as “nothing of concern”.
A second swelling was similarly found not alarming, but a biopsy of the third produced a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
In December 2004, the boy – Stavros – was taken to Makario hospital, where he was treated as a “standard-risk patient”.
The family immediately flew to Moscow, where the initial leukaemia diagnosis, as well as fungal lung infections for both father and son, was confirmed.
Chrysanthou was asked by the Russian doctors whether they lived near factories processing chemicals.
“I immediately called Mr Ionas Kailis, who lived next to the factory, and asked him to check whether Astrasol used any dangerous chemicals,” he told the court.
“He found some orange barrels and took the label off one to a doctor at the Nicosia general hospital, who told him they were carcinogens.”
On advice from the Russian doctors, the family flew to the US, so that Stavros could be admitted to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre.
There, Stavros was treated as a high-risk patient, but the family had to stay in the US for 30 months as Stavros successfully completed his treatment and was released in July 2007.
For the following four years, Stavros had to be flown to the US for follow-up tests every three months.
In 2013, Chrysanthou was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The family is now seeking damages for infringement on their rights to life, housing, respect of property and private life, and having a family.