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27 May 2014

Asbestos: Belgium is world 4th for mesothelioma deaths

A total of 3425 persons died from mesothelioma in Belgium between 1969 and 2009 according to recently published research in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

Belgium’s mesothelioma mortality rate – 18 deaths per million for males and 1.9 for females - is the fourth highest in the world, behind the United Kingdom and Australia and almost level-pegging with Italy.

Male mortality from mesothelioma rose nearly tenfold in Belgium during the 40 year period, from 2.5 to 26.3 deaths per million, with a sharp upward trend in the mid-1980s.

Mesothelioma deaths were mainly concentrated in five districts - all in the Flemish part of the country – where big asbestos industries were located. Eternit, one of Europe's largest asbestos groups, started up in Belgium in 1905. Of the 24 asbestos industries identified by the researchers, 9 were asbestos-cement manufacturers, while the others included shipyards, makers of car parts, electrical material, aluminium foil, textiles and paper.

"Mesothelioma mortality is only one indicator of asbestos exposure and further research on the progress of other asbestos-related diseases in Belgium is needed", argue the authors from Brussels’ VUB University, calling for the Belgian authorities to set up a national mesothelioma surveillance system as the United Kingdom and Italy have done.

Read more:

  • Van den Borre L. and Deboosere P., Asbestos in Belgium: an underestimated health risk. The evolution of mesothelioma mortality rates (1969–2009), International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, volume 20, Issue 2, April–June 2014, Abstract
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