Asbestos in Belgium: an underestimated health risk. The evolution of mesothelioma mortality rates (1969-2009)

International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health. 2014 April-June. [Link]

Deboosere P, Van den Borre L.



Although Belgium was once a major international manufacturer of asbestos products, asbestos-related diseases in the country have remained scarcely researched.


The aim of this study is to provide a descriptive analysis of Belgian mesothelioma mortality rates in order to improve the understanding of asbestos health hazards from an international perspective.


Temporal and geographical analyses were performed on cause-specific mortality data (1969-2009) using quantitative demographic measures. Results were compared to recent findings on global mesothelioma deaths.


Belgium has one of the highest mesothelioma mortality rates in the world, following the UK, Australia, and Italy. With a progressive increase of male mesothelioma deaths in the mid-1980s, large differences in mortality rates between sexes are apparent. Mesothelioma deaths are primarily concentrated in geographic areas with proximity to former asbestos industries.


Asbestos mortality in Belgium has been underestimated for decades. Our findings suggest that the location of asbestos industries is correlated with rates of mesothelioma, underlining the need to avert future asbestos exposure by thorough screening of potential contaminated sites and by pursuing a global ban on asbestos.