Asbestos Health Statistics

The UK's Biggest Workplace Killer

Over 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year

Updated 06/07/2023

Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, and other serious lung diseases such as asbestosis and pleural thickening.

2,268 mesothelioma deaths in 2021, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos.

537 deaths in 2021 mentioning asbestosis on the death certificate (excluding deaths that also mention mesothelioma).

Note. Figures for deaths occurring in 2020 and 2021 (shown as white circles) may have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Assessments of new IIDB cases were substantially reduced in 2020 and may also have been affected during 2021, though this less likely for mesothelioma due to its prioritisation for assessment.

  • There were 2,268 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2021. This is a fall of 302 compared with the 2,570 deaths in 2020, and substantially lower than the average of 2520 deaths per year over period 2012 to 2019.
  • The substantial reduction in deaths in 2021 remains consistent with earlier projections that annual deaths would fall gradually during the 2020s. Increased variability in the figures for 2020 and 2021 may have been caused by various factors associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • There were 1,867 male deaths in 2021 compared with 2,103 in 2020 and an average of 2107 deaths per year over the period 2012-2019.
  • There were 401 female deaths in 2021 compared with 467 in 2020 and an average of 416 deaths per year over the period 2012-2019. Predictions for females suggest that there will continue be 400-500 deaths per year during the 2020s.
  • Figures for 2020 and 2021 may have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This could include direct effects (individuals with mesothelioma dying earlier than otherwise due to also developing COVID-19), indirect effects on health services and effects on systems for recording and certifying deaths.
  • Around two thirds of annual deaths for both males and females now occur in those aged over 75 years. Annual deaths in this age group continue to increase while deaths below age 65 are decreasing.
  • There were 1,920 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2021 of which 325 were female. This compares with 1,910 new cases in 2020, of which 280 were female.
  • Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively in the past continue to be most at risk of mesothelioma

Further Information

For more information on the latest health statistics visit the HSE Website