In January, Angelo Di Ponzio lost his 15-year-old son. Giorgio died from a soft tissue sarcoma, a degenerative phenomenon linked to prolonged exposure to dioxin in the air.
"A genocide is unfolding before our very eyes, and the world knows nothing about it," Di Ponzio told DW.
He says his son is just one of many to have fallen victim to air pollution in his hometown of Taranto, in the Puglia region of Italy's deep south.
Time was, the sea-facing city of Taranto was the pulsing heart of Magna Graecia, as the Romans dubbed the coastal region of southern Italy. Today, that grandeur has faded and the location has become synonymous with something quite different.
Ten minutes from the center, in the district of Tamburi, which translates to "drums," a factory spews thick clouds of smoke over buildings stained in various shades of brown.
Conceived as a state-owned property in 1961, privatized by leading steel company Riva Group in 1995, and acquired by private Indian company ArcelorMittal last year, the Arcelor Mittal Italia steelworks, which is known locally as ex-Ilva, sprawls over 1,500 hectares of flatland, making it Europe's largest.
Put together by Italy's National Health Institute (ISS) and the Italian Network of Cancer Registries, SENTIERI, has made a connection between Taranto's cancer deaths and exposure to the emission of hazardous gases, including dioxin, a highly toxic persistent organic pollutant (POP).