One in seven people in Western nations have been damaged by exposure to asbestos, delegates at the European Respiratory Society annual congress have been told.

And Antii Tossavainen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health said the figure in developing nations would be even higher.

"We know occupational asbestos exposure in Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia was at its peak in the 1970s," he said.

"Recent estimates indicate that 30,000 new asbestos-related cancers continue to be diagnosed there every year.

"The rise in asbestos cancers in developing nations, where asbestos is still being heavily marketed, is likely to be steeper still."

Meanwhile, the new duty to manage asbestos risks will be promoted through a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) roadshow, due to tour the UK over the next two months. It will explain new government regulations being brought in next year that will require owners and occupiers to determine the presence of asbestos in their buildings and assess and control the risk.