Shocking new figures reveal the full extent of the asbestos deaths scandal that continues to cast a shadow over families in Leeds.

Campaigners have dubbed the city a mesothelioma “hot spot” and fear the death toll from the cancer may not peak until 2020.

More than 760 people in Leeds have died from asbestos-related disease mesothelioma since 1981.

Over 550 men and more than 210 women lost their lives after inhaling the deadly dust – one of the highest mortality rates in the country.

Exposure can take up to 50 years to show signs of the incurable condition and experts warn the death toll is likely to peak over the next five years.

The daughter of a Leeds mesothelioma victim whose legacy is a research charity said she was not surprised by the rise.

Kimberley Stubbs said the scale of the illness which claimed her mother June Hancock was “horrendous”.

She said: “Leeds, sadly, is a mesothelioma hot-spot because of the JW Roberts factory spewing the asbestos dust out into the streets of Armley.

“It is also important to remember that people are still being exposed to asbestos – it is in our schools, our public buildings, even in houses.

“Workmen come across it innocently in their jobs. I find this frightening, distressing and altogether unacceptable. Mesothelioma is a disease of the past, the present and the future.”

June Hancock was diagnosed in 1994 with mesothelioma, decades after growing up in Armley, where she played in asbestos dust.

Shortly before Mrs Hancock’s death, she won a “David and Goliath” test case against the firm’s parent company.

In 1997 the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund was started and since 1997 the charity has raised over £3.3 million pounds.

Former Leeds West MP John Battle, who supported victims over two decades, said: “If anything I think the total number of deaths will be higher in a few years’ time.

“A lot of people think Leeds was full of textile industries but the biggest industries were engineering and that was also a source of the problem.

“Mesothelioma is a terrible death to witness for anyone and it really drags them through the gates of hell. We need to keep June Hancock’s campaign alive.”

Jamie Hanley, who acted as legal representative to many asbestos victims, said: “Deaths in Leeds are not now expected to peak until 2020; a goal post that seems to be forever moving backwards.”

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