The Office for National Statistics has released figures showing areas of England and Wales where death rates are highest for asbestos-related lung cancer mesothelioma.

Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, has the highest mortality rate in the country with 14.3 per 100,000 having asbestos related deaths, while South Tyneside came in second with a rate of 10.9.

The national average is 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

Jonathan Wheeler, president of not-for-profit group the Association Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), said: “Mesothelioma is a legacy of Britain’s heritage.

Thankfully, employers nowadays are more aware of the dangers of exposing workers to asbestos.

“But those who were exposed 30 or 40 years ago are now facing death sentences for simply turning up to work.”

Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres. People can breathe these fibres in when they come into contact with the substance.

The fibres work their way into the pleura, lining the lung. They irritate the pleura and may cause gene changes (mutations) that lead to the growth of cancer.