Twelve people have died every day for the past four years as a result of working with asbestos, says the TUC.
The figures of 18,000 deaths since 1997 comes as the TUC puts together a "league table" of those counties and local authority areas that have seen the most deaths from asbestos.
Every year, about 4,500 people die from asbestos-related diseases, and by 2020, the TUC estimated the substance will have been responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year.
Most victims live in areas traditionally associated with shipbuilding, manufacturing, railway engineering, and the docks.
Based on the death rates per million, Tyne and Wear is home to the highest asbestos death toll, with its shipbuilding and asbestos legacy responsible for 768 deaths since 1997, said the TUC.
Devon is the second hardest hit English county, with the dockyards of Plymouth contributing towards its 612 deaths in the last four years, it added.
TUC general secretary John Monks said, "The dead and the living both deserve justice. That's why the TUC wants to see a global ban on asbestos, tougher measures regarding the control of asbestos in buildings, fairer, more efficient compensation and better medical care."
The HSE has published two asbestos guidance booklets for building maintenance work.