Endogenous airway acidification, as assessed by pH in expired breath condensate, has been implicated in asthma pathophysiology. We measured pH in breath condensate of patients with inflammatory airway diseases in stable condition and examined its relationship with the inflammatory process (as assessed by differential cell counts in induced sputum), oxidative stress (as assessed by H(2)O(2) and 8-isoprostane), and nitric oxide metabolism (as assessed by total nitrate/nitrite). We studied 40 patients with bronchial asthma (20 with moderate disease, forced expiratory volume in 1 second 60 % SD predicted), 20 patients with bronchiectasis, 20 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 10 normal subjects. Mean (95% confidence intervals) pH values were significantly lower in patients with COPD and bronchiectasis compared with patients with asthma and control subjects (7.16, 7.09-7.23 and 7.11, 7.04-7.19 versus 7.43, 7.35-7.52 and 7.57, 7.51-7.64, respectively, p < 0.0001). Patients with moderate asthma had significantly lower values compared with mild and control subjects. In patients with COPD and bronchiectasis, the values of pH were significantly correlated with both sputum neutrophilia and oxidative stress. Respectively, in patients with moderate asthma, a significant correlation was observed between pH and sputum eosinophilia, total nitrate/nitrite, and oxidative stress. The pH of the expired breath condensate might be a simple, noninvasive, inexpensive, and easily repeatable procedure for the evaluation of the inflammatory process in airway diseases.