The association of malignant mesothelioma (MM) and nonoccupational asbestos exposure is currently debated. Our study investigates environmental and domestic asbestos exposure in the city where the largest Italian asbestos cement (AC) factory was located. This population-based case-control study included pleural MM (histologically diagnosed) incidents in the area in 1987-1993, matched by age and sex to two controls (four if younger than 60). Diagnoses were confirmed by a panel of five pathologists. We interviewed 102 cases and 273 controls in 1993-1995, out of 116 and 330 eligible subjects. Information was checked and completed on the basis of factory and Town Office files. We adjusted analyses for occupational exposure in the AC industry. In the town there were no other relevant industrial sources of asbestos exposure. Twenty-three cases and 20 controls lived with an AC worker [odds ratio (OR) = 4.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.8-11.1)]. The risk was higher for the offspring of AC workers (OR = 7.4; 95% CI, 1.9-28.1). Subjects attending grammar school in Casale also showed an increased risk (OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 1.4-7.7). Living in Casale was associated with a very high risk (after selecting out AC workers: OR = 20.6; 95% CI, 6.2-68.6), with spatial trend with increasing distance from the AC factory. The present work confirms the association of environmental asbestos exposure and pleural MM, controlling for other sources of asbestos exposure, and suggests that environmental exposure caused a greater risk than domestic exposure.