ASBESTOS-related cancer has claimed the lives of dozens of people in Bromsgrove over almost four decades, new figures reveal.

MPs have launched an inquiry into how the material is being managed across the UK after serious safety concerns were raised.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer which affects the lining of some organs, including the lungs.

Health and Safety Executive data shows the disease was responsible for 85 deaths in Bromsgrove between 1981 and 2019 – the latest available figures.

Of those, 25 occurred between 2015 and 2019.

This is the highest number of deaths recorded in any five-year period since records began and eight more than in 2010-2014.

The Work and Pensions Committee, which launched the inquiry, said that despite the importation, supply and use of asbestos being banned in the UK since 1999, it remains the largest single cause of work-related fatalities.

More than 5,000 deaths each year are caused by diseases linked to asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The inquiry will examine the risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by the HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries.

Though traditionally, higher levels of asbestos-related illness were associated with work in industrial sites such as shipyards, in recent years that also expanded to other industries, including construction.

Dawn McKinley, chairman of the UK Mesothelioma Alliance, which includes charities, support groups and healthcare organisations, is calling for action to protect children and staff coming into contact with asbestos in schools.

She said: "Teachers, former pupils, school janitors, cleaners and canteen staff are dying from asbestos-related cancer and mesothelioma, and the numbers are increasing.

"The dose level required to contract mesothelioma is extremely small.

"Our politicians, duty holders and decision makers must come together and use their powers to protect our children from the real dangers they face from exposure to asbestos in our schools."