It has been warned that asbestos related deaths are set to reach a record high in the next five years.

Asbestos fibres can lie dormant in the lungs for 30-40 years before any symptoms occur. Due to this long latency period, more incidents of asbestos related illnesses and deaths could peak in the near future.

There has been a significant rise in cases from Oxfordshire, including from those who worked in particular areas at the Cowley plant, Didcot Power Station and Harwell’s atomic energy plant between the 1950s and 1970s.

The HSE expects deaths in Oxfordshire to peak from 2015-2020 in line with other parts of the UK.

Peter Lodge, an industrial disease specialist at Cheltenham’s Festival Law, said he had dealt with more than 100 claims in Oxfordshire over the last 20 years.

He said: “I’ve seen a significant increase in numbers in recent years and sadly that’s the way it’s going to be until we reach the peak over the next few years. Oxford was a big industrial area.”

He said he had dealt with several claims relating to people working at the Cowley plant when it was run by British Leyland from 1967 to 1986, Didcot Power Station and Harwell’s Atomic Energy Research Establishment.

He said: “Most claims are from males in their 60s or 70s who worked in industry between the 1950s and the 1970s.

“It’s coming back to haunt people and ‘ticking timebomb’ is probably quite a suitable phrase.”

HSE spokesman Jason Green yesterday said: “The number of deaths attributed to mesothelioma is likely to increase in the next five years as a result of historical exposure and the most vulnerable now are tradespeople working in building renovation.”

The HSE said between 1981 and 1985 there were eight deaths in Oxfordshire from mesothelioma, the most common form of asbestos-related cancer.

This rose to 29 in 1986-90, 45 from 1991-95, 49 from 1996-2000, 71 from 2001-05 and 77 from 2006-10. In Wiltshire it was 64 and in Buckinghamshire 76 for 2006-10.

From 1981-85 some 2,356 people died across the UK but this rose to 2,291 in 2011 alone and is predicted to increase to 2,438 in 2017 and 2018.

Oxford has been named one of seven areas alongside Manchester, Leicester, Cambridge, Wales, Portsmouth and Bristol, to have a specialist nurse brought in by the national charity Mesothelioma UK.

If you or a family member have been affected by asbestos exposure, please contact us today on Freephone 0800 294 3065, or talk to us on live chat where we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.