NEW figures highlight Plymouth as the UK's third worst hotspot for asbestos- related deaths.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics reveal that 373 men in the city died from mesothelioma – a cancer strongly associated with exposure to asbestos – between between 1981 and 2005
This figure makes Plymouth the UK's third largest cluster for these particular cancers, behind Leeds and Warrington.
The city's high asbestos death rate has been linked to the use of the material in the dockyard.
Local campaigners fighting to raise awareness of the disease 'time bomb' in Plymouth say the figures are not surprising.
Cases are expected to peak between 2011 and 2015, as the condition takes between 30 and 40 years to emerge.
Jackie Lowe, 36, from Brixton, who co-founded Plymouth's Roger Lowe Asbestos Mesothelioma Campaign in memory of her father, said: "The figures are disappointing but to be expected, and the numbers of death are only going to rise in the years to come.
"There's little or no Government-funded research into mesothelioma", she said.
"There are other, bigger national campaigns out there for other cancers that have had huge success in raising awareness and funds for research", Jackie added.
"The treatment for these cancers have moved on dramatically over the past 10 or 20 years. We want to be behind a campaign that does the same for treatment of asbestos-related conditions."
Dockyard worker and electrical fitter Roger Lowe died of mesothelioma in December 2005.
Mesothelioma sufferer Debbie Brewer, 49, of Eggbuckland, said: "I think these figures are just scratching the surface .
"There needs to be more awareness of the dangers of asbestos to prevent further deaths."
Debbie last year received more than £100,000 from the MoD after claiming she contracted the cancer due to hugging her dockyard worker father, picking up fibres from his work clothes in doing so.
The figures were released to coincide with the launch of the HSE's Asbestos: The Hidden Killer campaign, highlighting the dangers of working with the material.
The data also reveals that male mesothelioma deaths between 1981 and 2005 totalled 331 for the rest of Devon, 250 for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and 2,437 for the South West as a whole.
There were five times more deaths in Plymouth than in nearby Torbay, which had 67 over that time.
Only 14 women died from the disease in Plymouth in the same 24-year period.
Andrew Kingscott, head of construction for the HSE in the region, said: "Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4,000 people a year dying from asbestos-related disease.
"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."
Posters and radio adverts will encourage tradesmen to get a free asbestos information pack, to call 0845 345 0055 or visit www.hse. gov.uk/hiddenkiller.
The Roger Lowe Asbestos Mesothelioma Campaign is currently looking for a Plymouth venue for its support group meetings and hoping to recruit more volunteers to help run the group.
For further information, or to be put on the mailing list for the campaign's newly-launched newsletter email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0800 9169072 or see www.prospect. org.uk/rogerlowecampaign