Emotions ran high at a court house in Turin, Italy, on Monday as a judge sentenced two men to 16 years in jail for negligence that caused more than 2,000 deaths from asbestos poisoning.
The court-house was crowded with families of victims and some of those who are still suffering. Some cried. Others applauded.
Former executives Stephan Schmidheiny, 64, and Jean Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne, 90, were found guilty of intentionally omitting to install measures to prevent health damage from asbestos at their Eternit cement factories in Italy.
"That's what the case was about," says Barry Castleman, an American environmental consultant who testified at the trial.
Speaking with Anchor Marco Werman, Castleman says the defendants "did not take reasonable steps to protect workers and the community."
As an example Castleman says, "they (the workers) were not provided with the extensive dust control systems that would have at least reduced their risk."
Asbestos fibers cause lung cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, and other illnesses. The material was once popular as it provides good insulation and can retard fire. It's still used in many developing countries.
The factories in Italy closed in 1986.
The verdict could set a precedent for similar cases around the world. The defendants were also ordered to pay millions in damages.
The defendants, who were tried in absentia, both plan to appeal.