A link has been established between exposure to asbestos and an increased likelihood of dying of heart disease or stroke.

The study, carried out by researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton, Derbyshire, found that mortality rates were significantly higher among asbestos workers than in the general population and mortality was associated with those exposed to asbestos.

It was also found that longer exposure to asbestos meant there was a greater chance of dying from heart disease, while women are more likely than men to be affected by such health problems as a result of exposure.

David Urpeth, Partner and National Head of Workplace Illness and Injury at Irwin Mitchell, which recently represented the lead claimant in a Supreme Court asbestos-related case, said:

“It is been well known for some time that exposure to asbestos can lead to significant health risks, but these disturbing findings could have massive implications when it comes to the dangers attributed to asbestos exposure.

“Potentially, it may mean that many more people than first realised could have developed health problems as a result of contact with the material, including a huge number of fatalities which may have been regarded at inquest as deaths by natural causes.

“It is vital that more research is undertaken to further investigate the claims that have emerged from this study, with a view to providing more evidence to confirm just how dangerous asbestos exposure really is.”

He explained:

“It has only been a few days since the Supreme Court provided a level of legal certainty to so many sufferers and this research potentially creates a huge element of uncertainty in relation to the medical aspect.

“We clearly need more answers on the true danger of asbestos and it is vital that further research is made a very real priority.”