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June hearing for appeal in shoe factory cancer case

The supreme court

The supreme court will examine an appeal in June over the Astrasol case, filed by the attorney general’s office after government services were found responsible for creating a ‘cancer cluster’ for people working and living near the now defunct shoe factory.

In December, the Nicosia district court ruled that both Astrasol and the state were responsible after 21 people filed lawsuits, claiming that for over 30 years Astrosol used dichloromethane R40 in processing the soles of its shoes, a chemical which has been classified as ‘likely to be carcinogenic in humans’.

Class-action lawsuits were filed against Sotiris, Maroula and Fivos Liasis, Astrasol ltd, the official receiver as liquidator of Liasis shoelast company ltd and the attorney-general for the labour inspection and town planning departments and the Latsia municipality.

The lawsuits were headed by Theofanis Chrysanthou and Constantina Barka, the parents of 11-year-old Stavros who died of cancer.

The supreme court will examine the appeal on June 27.

In its December ruling, the district court found that the attorney-general bore responsibility for the majority of the plaintiffs as the state’s responsibilities on monitoring pollution were violated.

The labour inspection department failed to carry out any waste gas emission measurements at the factory from July 1999 to June 2004, when Astrasol received its certificate of registration process.

After the factory received its waste gas emissions licence, the department failed in its duties again because, despite readings showing the levels of dichloromethane were too high to be acceptable, ‘it did not take any measures to terminate the illegal operations of the factory’, the court said.

The labour inspection department granted the two licences to Astrasol despite the factory failing to have the proper planning permit.

“The town planning department, despite knowing that Astrasol had not obtained a planning permit for the mass production of shoe soles, did not take any court measures to put an end to this unlawfulness,” the court said.

It was also aware that the dichloromethane used by Astrasol was potentially carcinogenic and therefore that the factory which put the chemical to use would not be eligible for a planning permit.

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