Call to rid buildings of deadly asbestos after figures reveal dozens killed in Burnley since the 1980s

An example of asbestos
An example of asbestos
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Asbestos-related cancer has claimed dozens of lives in Burnley since the 1980s, figures reveal.

Charity Mesothelioma UK has warned that the danger posed by asbestos is often underestimated, and called for actions to rid buildings of the deadly substance.

Inhaling asbestos fibres can lead to mesothelioma, a lethal cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, which can take decades to develop.

Data from the Health and Safety Executive reveals that the disease has caused the deaths of 49 people in Burnley since 1981.

Between 2013 and 2017, the most recent reporting period, seven men and two women died of the disease.

Nationwide, deaths caused by the cancer have almost quadrupled over 35 years, reaching nearly 13,000 at the latest count.

The UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world, due to the regular use of asbestos to construct buildings between 1940 and 1970.

The material was banned in 1999, but damage to older buildings can release fibres into the air.

Liz Darlison, from Mesothelioma UK, said: "There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and we should be doing much more to protect people, particularly children.

"The time from exposure to developing the disease can take several decades, which is why the level of concern is perhaps not fully appreciated.

"As a nation, we must take responsibility and rid our buildings of this cancer-causing substance, for the sake of our children, their children, and every generation in the future."

Kate Sweeney, personal injury lawyer at law firm Stephensons, said that many people consider asbestos "a problem of the past".

"This is simply not the case," she said.

"Asbestos-related illnesses do not only occur in tradespeople or people who have worked in the construction industry.

"This potentially deadly material has been used in all types of buildings, and is still present in many primary schools."

The Health and Safety Executive said that it expects mortality rates from mesothelioma to decline after 2020.

A spokesperson said: "Since the dangers of asbestos became clear, successive governments have, over many years, made a concerted and sustained effort to address the issue."