The Asbestos Fund was set up on 1 April 2007 within the Belgian Fund for Occupational Diseases. It compensates victims of mesothelioma and asbestosis (or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening), two diseases related to asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura which usually results in the victim’s death in the year following its appearance. Of the 1360 victims compensated for this condition, 993 contracted the disease following occupational exposure to asbestos. The sector most affected is of course the asbestos processing sector. But its victims also include plumbers, welders, metallurgy workers, construction workers and dockers. The 367 other non-occupational victims contracted the disease because they lived in the suburbs close to a factory, because their spouse worked in an asbestos factory or because they used asbestos in the context of a hobby.
For these mesothelioma victims as a whole, the AFA has given 2213 positive decisions. This could be a decision to award a pension of 1723.05 euros a month to the victim themselves, or a lump sum awarded to the spouse, former spouse or child after death. For example, a spouse is awarded a single lump sum of €34,461.
Asbestosis is a lung fibrosis which often goes hand-in-hand with gradual breathlessness as the condition evolves. This disease too is incurable, but fortunately the outcome is usually not fatal. An asbestosis victim receives a monthly amount of €17.23 per percentage point of disability.
Most of the victims develop these diseases at between age 65 and 74. The diseases appear 20 to 40 years after the victim’s exposure to asbestos. The fact that asbestos was used in Belgium extensively in the 1970s and ’80s obviously makes these diseases still very topical.
In budget terms, since the Asbestos Fund’s creation, the amount of compensation paid has been about €68 million. The victims received €38 million, and their legal beneficiaries €30 million.
The Asbestos Fund is financed in equal proportions by the government and companies. To the extent that a financial reserve has been provided for in the AFA’s budget, in the coming years the Fund will be able to cope with any increase in the number of victims of asbestos-related diseases.