Systematic reports from chest and occupational physicians under the SWORD and OPRA (Occupational Physicians Reporting Activity) surveillance schemes continue to provide a picture of the incidence of occupational respiratory disease in the UK. An estimated total of 4393 incident cases (comprising 4530 diagnoses) were reported during the 1999 calendar year, an increase of 1427 cases over the previous year. Benign pleural disease was the single most frequently reported condition (28% of all diagnoses reported). Occupational asthma cases (1168; 26%) remained high, as did mesothelioma (1032; 23%). Analysis of trends over the past 8 years shows an increase in mesothelioma cases, but little change in asthma. The annual incidence per 100,000 employed people, 1996-1999, for mesothelioma, lung cancer and pneumoconiosis was high amongst construction workers (28.7), miners and quarrymen (26.5), woodworkers (18.9) and gas, coal and chemical workers (15.2). Trends in mesothelioma incidence by birth cohort continue to show an increase in construction workers and a continuing decline in shipyard and insulation workers. The relative proportion of pneumoconiosis cases attributed to coal mining has fallen steadily in workers born since approximately 1920 and most cases are now in men who have been employed in quarrying and rock drilling.