A group set up to support sufferers of asbestos related diseases and their families has said the number of people affected is expected to grow.
Onset of disease can be delayed by up to 40 years
A special conference is taking place in Belfast to discuss what can be done to tackle the problem.
Justice for Asbestos Victims was set up in 2002 by sufferers and the families of those who died from the diseases.
The group said it aimed to change "the appalling lack of local services and information available to victims".
Asbestos Related Diseases (ARDs) are predicted to rise to about 10,000 deaths a year across the UK, said the group.
The onset of the diseases can be delayed by up to 40 years after exposure, it said.
'History and development'
"The vast majority of those now suffering with ARDs were exposed to asbestos in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 1970s," said a spokesman.
"Northern Ireland's asbestos legacy arises from its shipbuilding industry at Harland and Wolff, its numerous power stations, including Kilroot and Coolkeragh, its building industry and other allied trades where asbestos materials where utilised.
"As a support group, JAV feel that the general public together with elected representatives and other professionals are still not aware of the existence of the future increase of ARDs.
"JAV has organised its first annual conference to highlight all aspects of asbestos exposure in Northern Ireland - including the history and development of asbestos law."
Legal and health professionals will address Friday's conference at the Waterfront Hall.