Airway irritants such as ozone are known to impair lung function and induce airway inflammation. Clara cell protein (CC16) is a small anti-inflammatory protein secreted by the nonciliated bronchiolar Clara cells. CC16 in serum has been proposed as a noninvasive and sensitive marker of lung epithelial injury. In this study, we used lung function and serum CC16 concentration to examine the pulmonary responses to ambient O3 exposure and swimming pool attendance. The measurements were made on 57 children 10-11 years of age before and after outdoor exercise for 2 hr. Individual O3 exposure was estimated as the total exposure dose between 0700 hr until the second blood sample was obtained (mean O3 concentration/m3 times symbol hours). The maximal 1-hr value was 118 microg/m3 (59 ppb), and the individual exposure dose ranged between 352 and 914 microg/m3hr. These O3 levels did not cause any significant changes in mean serum CC16 concentrations before or after outdoor exercise, nor was any decrease in lung function detected. However, children who regularly visited chlorinated indoor swimming pools had significantly lower CC16 levels in serum than did nonswimming children both before and after exercise (respectively, 57 +/- 2.4 and 53 +/- 1.7 microg/L vs. 8.2 +/- 2.8 and 8.0 +/- 2.6 microg/L; p < 0.002). These results indicate that repeated exposure to chlorination by-products in the air of indoor swimming pools has adverse effects on the Clara cell function in children. A possible relation between such damage to Clara cells and pulmonary morbidity (e.g., asthma) should be further investigated.