HEALTH

Is This Mafia Group Responsible for Naples’ Skyrocketing Cancer Rate?

Feb 25, 2014 at 7:06 AM ET

Welcome to Naples, land of fine food, beautiful women and…cancer? The region is home to Italy’s youngest population, but also boasts the highest cancer rate, including very rare forms of tumors that affect children and otherwise healthy people under the age of 40. So why are so many people who shouldn’t have cancer dying from it?

Enter Camorra, a mafia group based in Naples. They are infamous for many bloody wars fought between rival clans over drug turf in the city of Naples. Camorra has been responsible for upwards of 40,000 murders. But it’s their waste management business that may prove to be even more deadly than the drug business. Local residents blame Camorra’s illegal dumping of hazardous and toxic material for causing cancer rates in the region to soar. It sounds like the plot of a mafia movie, but this is real.

Vocativ connects the dots from the drug trade to illegal dumping. We take you inside Le Vele, Camorra’s infamous drug supermarket in Naples. We interview a former Camorrista about life inside the system. We sneak our camera onto one of Camorra’s illegal dump sites, where official government signs assure residents that the area is safe. What’s a good mafia movie without some corrupt politicians?

We also meet the people who are standing up to Camorra, a hard-nosed mayor, an honest cop, an activist farmer and an army of angry citizens, all fighting back.