ICMESA: a chemical factory in the territory

Meda - interno ditta Icmesa
Meda – interno ditta Icmesa

On 29 November 1945, ICMESA – Meda Chemical Industry, a limited company, presented its request to the Civil Engineering Corps of Milan, to build a new factory at Meda for the production of pharmaceutical substances. ICMESA was a medium-sized factory belonging to the Swiss company, L. Givaudan and from 1963, to the Hoffman La Roche group.

In 1969 the factory started its productions of 2.4.5 tetrachlorophenol, a by-product used mainly in the preparation of an acid, the derivatives of which were used as herbicides and for the preparation of an antibacterial substance, hexachlorophenol.
Tetrachlorophene gained fame after 10 July 1976 following the leakage of the toxic cloud containing also dioxin but all the production cycles of the factory were already highly at risk since 1947, at the start of the activities.
In 1949, the Municipal Council of Seveso dealt with the noxiousness of the waters issued into the Certesa stream by the Meda factory, reporting that the waters diffused “nauseating and unbearable odours into the atmosphere” and made the air “absolutely unbreathable due to the fumes issuing from the waste waters of the factory.” This went on for years, but unfortunately the alarms raised went unheeded by the population and health authorities, with regard to the hazards created by ICMESA’s activities..
On 18 July 1976 ICMESA was finally shut down by the Mayor of Meda, Fabrizio Malgrati. The factory’s employees counted 16 women and 139 men. Today only the walled fence of the ICMESA factory remains and is visible on ICMESA St. in Meda. A sports centre was built in the area.