Asbestos-related diseases are taking the lives of 4000 people every year in the UK and numbers are on the increase, warns the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE released the figures as part of a new campaign aimed at tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers. Almost 1000 of the 4000 deaths are tradespeople and, while the number of deaths in traditional industries has plateaued, deaths in trades continue to rise.

Former plasterer and Arsenal and England football player Ian Wright has given his support to help highlight the importance of the HSE’s ‘Asbestos: The Hidden Killer’ campaign, which ran throughout November and aims to reduce the rising death rate by educating today’s tradespeople about the dangers of asbestos.

Steve Coldrick, director of the HSE’s Disease Reduction Programme, said: “We need to educate tradespeople about how asbestos and its dangers are relevant to them. We want them to change the way they work so that they don’t put their lives at risk.

“The overall number of deaths is rising because a large number of workers who have already been exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago will go on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal cancer or other asbestos-related diseases.”

Jill Morrell, British Lung Foundation head of public affairs, said: “The campaign is vital because research shows only one in 10 tradespeople know exposure to asbestos can prove fatal.”

Asbestos may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before 2000. It is estimated around 500 000 non-domestic buildings could contain asbestos.