Belgium is bracing for a hike in deaths linked to substantial asbestos imports in the past, De Standaard reported on Friday. From 1948 to 1998, when Belgium banned asbestos, at least two billion tonnes of the cancer-causing substance were imported into the country, according to new data collected by a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB – Free University of Brussels), Laura Van den Borre, under the direction of Professor Patrick Deboosere. This figure is higher than original estimates.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer found in the lining of the lungs, stomach, heart and testicles. The Asbestos Fund, which pays compensation to mesothelioma victims, registered 228 recognized applications for compensation last year.
Deaths from such tumors should peak by 2024, according to projections by a team at KU Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven) led by Professor Ben Nemery.
However, mesothelioma figures alone cannot account for the total cost of asbestos use. “There are still hidden costs, mainly because a certain number of lung cancers are also caused by asbestos but are difficult to identify,” Nemery explained.