This study describes the quantitative relationships between early pulmonary responses and the estimated lung-burden or cumulative exposure of respirable-quartz or coal mine dust. Data from a previous bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) study in coal miners (n = 20) and nonminers (n = 16) were used including cell counts of alveolar macrophages (AMs) and polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), and the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels. Miners' individual working lifetime particulate exposures were estimated from work histories and mine air sampling data, and quartz lung-burdens were estimated using a lung dosimetry model. Results show that quartz, as either cumulative exposure or estimated lung-burden, was a highly statistically significant predictor of PMN response (P < 0.0001); however cumulative coal dust exposure did not significantly add to the prediction of PMNs (P = 0.2) above that predicted by cumulative quartz exposure (P < 0.0001). Despite the small study size, radiographic category was also significantly related to increasing levels of both PMNs and quartz lung burden (P-values < 0.04). SOD in BAL fluid rose linearly with quartz lung burden (P < 0.01), but AM count in BAL fluid did not (P > 0.4). This study demonstrates dose-response relationships between respirable crystalline silica in coal mine dust and pulmonary inflammation, antioxidant production, and radiographic small opacities.