The number of case of work-related asbestos poisoning across the UK is much higher than originally feared, new research has concluded.

According to a new study into occupational health and safety carried out by the HSE in collaboration with Cancer Research UK, as many as two in three British men born in the 1940s would have been exposed to the harmful substance at some point in their professional lives, while for women this figure stands at one in five.

Furthermore, lung cancer developed through exposure in the workplace now accounts for around one in 170 male deaths, while the study also found that people whose partners had been exposed to asbestos were also likely to be at a slightly greater risk of falling ill themselves.

"The UK has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world," Professor Julian Peto, Cancer Research UK epidemiologist and lead researcher, wrote in the British Journal of Cancer.

"By getting information on all the jobs people had ever done we have shown that the risk in some occupations, particularly in the building industry, is higher than we previously thought," he added.

Just this week, a school in Scotland was forced to close after staff reported asbestos in the air.