THERE have been 86 asbestos related deaths in East Lancashire in the last five years, according to new figures.

Statistics show that Blackburn with Darwen has a higher than average death rate from mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lung wall caused by exposure to asbestos.

The not for profit Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) obtained the number of deaths from 2006 to 2010 and have warned that the alarming figures will continue to rise.

Blackburn with Darwen had 23 deaths, the equivalent to three deaths in 100,000 people. The average for England and Wales during the same period was 2.5.

In the same time, there were 17 deaths in Chorley, 13 in Pendle, nine in Burnley, nine in Hyndburn, nine in the Ribble Valley, and six in Rossendale.

Several local asbestos-related deaths have been linked to working at the Garden Street gas mask factory during the war and the Huncoat Power Station.

APIL president David Bott said: “More people die of mesothelioma in Blackburn with Darwen per head of the population than in most other parts of the country.

“This is bad enough, but the number of men dying from this disease is expected to peak during the next five years and what many people don’t realise is that hundreds of sufferers across the UK cannot get the compensation they need to help them through the last days of their life.

“What is needed is for the Government to bring forward proposals for a fund of last resort which would act as a safety net for injured workers who are otherwise unable to pursue the justice they deserve.”

Many workers who have developed mesothelioma are sometimes unable to pursue a claim for damages because they can no longer trace the employer who exposed them to asbestos, or the employer’s insurance company.

This is because the onset of symptoms often comes decades after a worker has inhaled asbestos fibres, during which time employers go out of business and insurance documents can be lost or destroyed.

“The Government proposed to set up a fund of last resort shortly before the general election, but 18 months has now passed and nothing has been heard about it since,” added Mr Bott.

“In the meantime, sick and dying workers who are prevented from bringing valid cases are left effectively subsidising insurance companies.

“This unacceptable situation simply cannot go on. Something must be done before more dying victims of mesothelioma go uncompensated.

“A similar fund exists for victims injured by uninsured drivers. The Government must do the right thing and introduce one for injured workers.”