Victims of asbestos will be remembered in a ceremony outside Sheffield City Hall on Friday to mark Action Mesothelioma Day.
The event, organised by the Sheffield and Rotherham Asbestos Victim Support Group, will start at 11am before moving from Barker’s Pool to the Memorial Hall for a meeting between 11.30pm and 1pm, which will be opened by the Lord Mayor.
Campaigners say asbestos remains the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, claiming about 4,000 victims every year.
More than half the deaths are due to mesothelioma – a tumour on the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos which is notoriously difficult to detect.
Specialist lawyer David Cass, head of John Pickering and Partners’ Sheffield office, who works with mesothelioma victims and their families, said: “There are often no symptoms for many years and that is what makes this such a cruel disease.
“Many people are fit and healthy well into retirement but, once discovered, the average life expectancy after diagnosis is just nine months.”
He said, due to the lapse in time between legislation governing the use of asbestos, the death toll from the disease is not expected to reach its peak until about 2016.
Mr Cass said: “Although we no longer use asbestos, those after-effects will be with us for a long time and that is why it is so important for victims and families to get the best representation to deal with their case.
“People who worked in construction and certain manufacturing industries are clearly most at risk but it is important to remember it can affect anyone, either through indirect exposure such as washing work clothes or by unwittingly working in an environment where asbestos is present.”
Penella Woll, a consultant in medical oncology at Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital, said: “Mesothelioma is an aggressive tumour that can cause very unpleasant symptoms for those affected.
“Although cure is not possible for the majority of patients, Sheffield has a strong research team working to improve survival.”