New figures show Brentwood has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the country.

Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals the borough has the eighth highest rate of mortality from mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, in England and Wales with 8.3 deaths in every 100,000 people - nearly double the national average of 4.51.

Neil Sugarman, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a not-for-profit campaign group which campaigns for redress for sick and dying workers, said: "The suffering of families affected by mesothelioma demonstrates how important it is that lessons are learned and health and safety in the workplace is respected.

“Mesothelioma is a lung cancer exclusively linked to exposure to asbestos, which could have happened 20 or even 30 years before the disease emerges. It is always fatal, often within 18 months of diagnosis.

“Areas such as Brentwood, which has a high rate of deaths from mesothelioma, are no doubt seeing the effects of past industry where workers were negligently exposed to asbestos. This is despite the risks being well-known since as far back as the Fifties. People went to work and came home with a death sentence because their negligent employers exposed them to asbestos."

The number of deaths from mesothelioma has rocketed by nearly a third in the last ten years and is expected to peak in 2018.

Mr Sugarman added: “As the effects of more robust regulation of the use of asbestos and better safety practices come to fruition, the number of needless deaths should start to decline.

“Construction workers and association tradesmen are a high-risk group for asbestos exposure, as are shipbuilders. Even teachers are at risk as asbestos was used so widely when building schools. Nineteen teachers are dying from mesothelioma each year.

“It’s a national tragedy.”