Far from being a photoshopped funny, this is a genuine photograph from the Italian beach at Rosignano in Tuscany.

The beautiful Spiagge Bianche (white beaches) are not all they promise to be, however. The white sand has been artificially created by years of chemical discharge – specifically, calcium chloride and limestone into the sea. An article in 2016 described the beaches in all of their artificial glory

“The stunningly white sand here is not natural. It’s chemical waste, and its source stands right next to the beach — an enormous complex of towering chimneys and cooling towers spewing smoke and steam into the air. This is the Solvay chemical plant.”

The monstrosity behind the beach is the Rosignano Solvay facility, where INEOS is based. They manufacture high-density polyethylene, alongside a host of other petrochemical operations and companies.

In their 2017 Issue Brief, Food and Water Watch and Food and Water Europe cited safety and environmental failures at the Rosignano facility during 2015:

“In July, a problem at the plant’s ethylene storage tank caused a loss of control of its cooling circuit, releasing smoke from the facility. In August, the plant had to flare ethylene gas while it was attempting to repair the problem that caused the smoke cloud the previous month. In December, the plant released a column of smoke and visible flames from an ethylene storage chimney, again related to the failed cooling system from July.”

In A Global Inventory of Production Technologies, Markets, and Pollutiondescribed how previous samples taken by environmental of officials found “extensive mercury contamination of the beach and surrounding marine environment”. In 2016, the Solvay facility released 10.4 kg of dichloromethane (a solvent with the possibility of being carcinogenic) to water, according to The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) data.

In 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme described the Spiagge Bianche as one of the most polluted coastal sites on the Mediterranean Sea coast.

There is also a higher than average incidence of cancer:

“Between 2008 and 2010, the town recorded a mortality rate higher than the regional average for the same period, increasing by 2.2 per cent for men and 8.3 percent for women. In addition, the frequency of tumors and premature mortality (under age 65) are both above the regional average by several percentage points.”

Wish you were here?