Large numbers of steelworkers are coming forward to make asbestos-related health claims connected with their work at a number of steelworks operated during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

A number of workers and their relatives from the former – now demolished – British Steel-owned plant in Port Talbot and the Llanwern steelworks are now coming forward after being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.

The claims are historic and are not in any way connected with the modern Port Talbot steel mill or the way the Llanwern mill in Newport (which opened in 1961) was run after the 1970s.

One law firm said in the past year it has seen a 40% increase in claims from steelworks in the area and is currently working on cases connected to the old Port Talbot plant and Llanwern as it was run in the 1960s and 1970s and warned that many more could surface.

A number of ex-workers from the 1960s and 1970s are believed to have died from the asbestos related cancer mesothelioma, which is linked with past exposure to asbestos dust.

As well as mesothelioma, other health conditions linked to asbestos exposure include pleural thickening and asbestosis – with symptoms often surfacing decades after exposure.

The widow of former Port Talbot steelworker James Ryan, Maureen Ryan, is now working with her solicitor to contact people who worked with him at the former Port Talbot steelworks in the late 1950s.

Mr Ryan used to cut sheets of asbestos at the factory and had worked there from 1957 to 1960.

The original Port Talbot steelworks where Mr Ryan worked was demolished in 1961.

He died aged 78 in June 2013, three months after being diagnosed.

She said: “I still miss him terribly and will never get over it.

“He was a proud and independent man but he went down very quickly and it was awful to watch him suffer.”

If you or a family member have been affected by asbestos please contact us on 0800 294 3065 where we will be able to help, support and advise you in the best way possible.