Each country in Europe has its own list of occupational diseases that includes diseases that occur due to the conditions of work. Such list is required to define the employees eligible to get compensation from employers for the damage inflicted at work. If a person’s diagnosis is in the list, there is no need to pass long and stressful procedure for proving the right for compensation. In the case of asbestos lung cancer and other diseases caused by the contact with this mineral the latency period is more than 20 years. And it’s really hard to find a link between the workplace where an employee was exposed to asbestos and his current diagnosis.
However this rule doesn’t fair for all European countries. For instance, in Sweden the list of occupational diseases includes only infectious diseases, so there is no chance to qualify for compensation having asbestos related disease without providing a proof of the connection between disease and occupation.
The evidence of being ill due to the occupation, if the diagnosis is not in the list, is performed by complementary system of recognition in all countries except Spain. This system implies that a victim solely needs to provide the full evidence of relation between work and disease.
The European list of occupational diseases contains three diseases that have relation to asbestos: mesothelioma, asbestosis and bronchial cancer developed as a complication of asbestosis. Also cancer of the larynx can be a consequence of asbestos dust inhaling.
Asbestosis was the first disease recognized as a direct damage of asbestos in lungs. First it was included into the German list of occupational diseases in 1937, and then Italy and France included it into their national lists in 1943 and 1945 accordingly. In t969 asbestosis came into the Belgian list, in 1973 – to Portuguese and in 1978 – to Spanish. Soon asbestos lung cancer was recognized and included to the lists. And again the first country was Germany (1956).
Mesothelioma was recognized as occupational disease only in 1976 in France. Italy included it into list in 1994 only. During this period other European countries also accepted mesothelioma as a professional disease of workers who contact with asbestos.
The situation regarding pleural plaques is doubtful. From the one side they are directly caused by asbestos, but from the other side there is no damage to the organism from them. Austria and Spain do not consider them as an occupational disease. The rest of countries consider it as an occupational disease under the list or complementary system. But only France pays compensation based only on the existence of pleural plaques. In the rest of countries the procedure of recognizing the occupational nature of pleural plaques is so complex that compensation is awarded mostly as an exception. France also recognizes pleural thickening as an occupational disease, and this is the only country in Europe.
The recognition of asbestos related diseases in Europe is highly diversified. Each country forms its own attitude to this type of health conditions. It highly depends on the history of asbestos use in national industry, the size of a problem in national scale and number of victims. The more people got occupational asbestos diseases, the stricter are rules for paying compensation or the smaller its amount is.