Belgium has recently been struggling with the amount of asbestos in its federal buildings. Many countries banned the use of asbestos in construction in the 70’s or 80’s, but Belgium did not ban asbestos in construction until 1998. This means that any buildings that were built before the 1998 ban most likely contain asbestos in them.
Asbestos was a very popular material to use in construction due to its fire-retardant and insulative qualities. Although asbestos in a building may not release airborne fibers, once it’s disturbed or wears down it will release airborne fibers and pose a threat to people’s health. Any kind of inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers will lead to many health problems down the line. Some of these diseases and cancers include asbestosis and mesothelioma. Both of these cause shortness of breath, chest pains, and, in regards to mesothelioma, death.
To prevent the health risks that having building contain asbestos poses, Belgium has been undergoing a project for the past couple of decades to remove all asbestos from its federal buildings. This has been relatively successful and 104 buildings have either had the asbestos in them completely removed or have been tested for asbestos contamination.
The main problem with the amount of asbestos abatements that have been going on in Belgium is the expensive price tag that comes along with the process. A recent asbestos roofing abatement done on a police station in Uccle cost the government around 250,000 euros. Another asbestos abatement project cost the government another 200,000 euros.
In the big picture, many justify the large price tag that comes along with the asbestos removal projects. If people do inhale asbestos from these buildings and contract mesothelioma, the government may have to dish out even more money to pay for compensation.
Pauline Vachaudez, government employee, said that, “The quantity of asbestos present in state buildings is being reduced year on year. During renovation works we regularly eliminate asbestos.” This makes it appear that Belgium is successfully handling their asbestos problem in the best way that they can.