Asbestosis: Why it is becoming increasingly common
At the beginning of January, ARD reported on asbestosis and the problem of its recognition as an occupational disease by the employers' liability insurance association. Since 1993, the use of asbestos has been prohibited because of the high risk of cancer. Nevertheless, the building pollutant continues to cause cancer - the number of cases has even risen sharply in recent years: from 1,546 in the mid-1990s to 4,938 per year at last count, which is more than three times as many. The cancer does not break out until decades after contact with asbestos, which is why many presumed victims do not receive an accident pension. As a result, recognition of asbestosis as an occupational disease is becoming less frequent.
The problem lies in the fact that asbestosis is only considered an occupational disease when the so-called "fibre years" are fulfilled: There must be a total of 25 years in which asbestos was demonstrably present in the workplace. If the person suffering from asbestosis cannot prove this, it is not recognised as an occupational disease. This recognition by the Employer's Liability Insurance Association is the prerequisite for more appropriate health care and pensions.
The period between exposure to asbestos at work and the development of lung cancer can be up to 40 years. As a result, decades after asbestos entered the lungs, those affected can hardly prove whether and how much they have inhaled. And since lung cancer can have other causes, this makes it much more difficult to prove. Lawyer Miriam G. Battenstein explains: "Asbestos is the biggest killer of occupational diseases in Germany and there are thousands of cases.