Ministry knew of toxic risk

Finance Ministry officials had been aware seven years ago that an electricity substation in the ministry’s central Athens headquarters was leaking highly toxic chemicals, according to documents obtained by Kathimerini. On Tuesday, the ministry confirmed reports that transformers in its Syntagma Square building were leaking the highly potent carcinogen clophen – a polychlorinated biphenyl or PCB – and said it would replace the electrical equipment by July 10. On Thursday, a judicial probe was ordered into claims that the the leak was linked with ministry employees’ cancer deaths. Studies in May found that the clophen level in the building’s basement was 9,000 times above normal levels. As a result, the basement was sealed off. But documents acquired by Kathimerini show that in 1996 the transformer maintenance company, Express Ltd, had warned ministry officials and the building’s owner that both transformers were leaking clophen from several spots, and urged their removal.

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