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Toxic industrial heritage and heritage futures: the case of asbestos in Belgium (Europe)

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11:00 AM, Mardi 30 Août 2022 (20 minutes)
Since the 1990s, the use and reuse of asbestos is prohibited in Belgium and Europe. This highly toxic mineral has been widely used in several products and building materials. Scientific research argues that not only professionals who used to work in the asbestos industry, but everyone who has close contact with asbestos products is in danger of developing asbestos related diseases (Vanden Borre 2019). The prohibition doesn’t mean contemporary societies don’t face massive challenges in the management of this toxic heritage. In Flanders, Belgium, the local government has developed a long term policy, aimed at creating an asbestos safe environment (OVAM 2018). This plan also involves the sector of industrial heritage, as is shown by a heritage project of ETWIE, the Flemish Heritage Center on Industrial Heritage (Januarius 2019, Neirinckx 2019). This presentation/paper tackles the issue of asbestos in industrial heritage from two perspectives. First of all, it will argue that current and future management of asbestos in industrial heritage can benefit from the theoretical insights of the Heritage Futures Project (Holtorf et al. 2020) and other projects dealing with ‘difficult’ of ‘controversial’ heritage (Rooijakkers 2016). A long term perspective is needed, in order to safeguard knowledge on the industry and other health-related issues. Secondly, this presentation/paper will present the results of a large scale project on inventorying asbestos in heritage sites and museum collections as a best practice. New asbestos products in collections have been identified and documented in a new publicly accessible asbestos inventory.

Joeri Januarius


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