LELESTI - For years they inhaled it. Former workers of the asbestos-cement factories in Romania worked without any protection against the toxic dust. Except a milk ratio. It was supposed to protect against cancer and toxicity, or so they believed during communism. Long privatized and shut down, the factories still have their marks on people’s lungs. The diseases appear decades after the exposure.

After getting them sick in its factories, the Romanian State puts them through  a battle for compensation. The figures are two zeros short than what other European countries pay to compensate and the process involves a suffocating path of unimaginable bureaucracy. 

Always seen as a tribute paid to progress, now old and unwell, the former workers were refused payment. They retired before they could contribute to the state fund for professional diseases. State officials have been automatically insured, but not the most exposed. 
Their number is unknown as the statistics are chaotically reported. Only 3 cases of mesothelioma in 20 years reported as a professional disease mirroring more than 1200 deaths caused by this rare form of cancer related to asbestos exposure.
Mistreated by their own country, the former workers were also dodged by the foreign investor who took over the factories. The French company Lafarge, currently merged with Swiss cement giant Holcim, refused to sign the papers people needed for obtaining the compensations. Even if there was no financial bind, the company preferred to be sued and went to court before being associated with the victims. 

Illustration: Robert Obert ©

Team members

Roxana Jipa

Roxana Jipa is an investigative journalist and fact checker based in Bucharest.

Ayse Turcan

Ayse Turcan is a freelance journalists based in Switzerland.

Ayse Turcan
€15.000 allocated on 23/02/2022


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