The definition of what is to be considered -not only legally- by the term “environment” has often proved to be a very difficult task and with unsatisfactory results, as well as a precise and uniform definition of pollution is very difficult.
However, the Italian legislator in art. 5 of the Consolidated Bill for the Environment, following the additions made by Legislative Decree nr. 128 of 29 June 2010, offers a definition of pollution that, although contained in Title I of Part Two (and therefore referred to the administrative procedures of EIA, SEA and AIA) can in any case assume a general relevance.
Pollution is therefore “the direct or indirect introduction, as a result of human activity, of substances, vibrations, heat or noise or, more generally, of physical or chemical agents, into the air, water or soil, which could harm human health or the quality of the environment, cause the deterioration of material assets, or damage or disturbance to recreational values of the environment or to other legitimate uses thereof”.
It is a very broad and vague definition, but in some respects also very interesting: the recreational values of the environment are expressly taken into account and therefore protected, to be understood in a broad sense, which also includes the historical and cultural values and identities of the individual and the community, as well as the human need for contact with nature for the purpose of relaxation and inner enrichment.
These observations are part of a still anthropocentric perspective of the protection of the environment from the phenomenon of pollution.
The definition under review seems to include an ecocentric perspective of protection, which recognizes the environmental good as an intrinsic value, a value in itself, regardless of the need for an attribution of value and / or utility on our part, ie the human species, according to the teaching of one of the founders of environmental ethics as a new form of philosophical reflection, “man is the only measurer of things, but can not be the only measure.”
Notably, the reference to the quality of the environment, in addition to that relating to human health, must be understood in the sense of setting the evaluative operation that the concept of quality inevitably refers to parameters that are not solely and predominantly human, despite this leading to a much greater level of complexity.
Given these premises with regard to the definition of pollution provided by the legislator for administrative procedures aimed at assessing the overall impact of the work or activity on the environment as a whole, it should be noted that the system takes into account more specific and “sectoral” notions of pollution: for example, water pollution, soil pollution, air pollution, noise, electromagnetic pollution, light pollution and smell pollution.
It should also be noted that the definition of relevant pollution for the purposes of the existence of the new crime of environmental pollution under Article. 452-bis of the Criminal Code identifies a narrower notion, which selects only the pollutants with the characteristics of measurability and significance, for the full understanding of which the interpretative coordinates provided by the jurisprudence of legitimacy will be decisive.