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Research Article

Understanding a Man-Made Epidemic: The Relation between Historical Asbestos Consumption and Mesothelioma Mortality in Belgium

Authors:

Laura Van den Borre ,

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, BE
About Laura

Laura Van den Borre (1989) studied Sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She is currently a PhD fellow of the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO) at the research group Interface Demography of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where she studies the impact of asbestos on mortality in Belgium.

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Patrick Deboosere

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, BE
About Patrick

Patrick Deboosere (1951) holds a Master degree in Political Science and a PhD in Sociology. He was director of Interface Demography (ID) and scientific coordinator of its first Strategic Research Programme at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). He teaches demography and research methods at the VUB and also lectured at the School for Public Health of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Recently retired, he continues to contribute to ID in his area of research: population studies with a focus on population health, ageing and socio-economic differentials in mortality and health.

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Abstract

This article discusses (i) the history of asbestos use between 1948 and 2001; (ii) the development of the current epidemic of mesothelioma deaths (1969-2014); and (iii) reasons for the belated government intervention in Belgium. Belgium imported over two billion tonnes of raw asbestos from 1948 until 1998. The current peak in male mesothelioma deaths corresponds to the expansion of the asbestos industry 40 years earlier. Reasons for the delayed government intervention include long latency periods of asbestos-related diseases, faulty communication about health risks, a strong asbestos lobby and an ambivalent government. Public health was sacrificed in favour of industrial development, economic advancement and political gain. The Belgian case further underlines the need for a global ban on asbestos.

How to Cite: Van den Borre, L. & Deboosere, P., (2018). Understanding a Man-Made Epidemic: The Relation between Historical Asbestos Consumption and Mesothelioma Mortality in Belgium . TSEG/ Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History . 14 ( 4 ) , pp . 116–138 .
Published on 19 Apr 2018.
Peer Reviewed

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