Occupational asbestos exposure has been endemic in Portsmouth. A retrospective case note analysis of 50 patients who underwent thoracoscopy over a 2-year period from January 2003 was undertaken. Biopsies were taken in 47 cases, 31 of which showed malignant mesothelioma. Thirty seven percent of those without a history of direct exposure to asbestos had mesothelioma, implying that even in the absence of an exposure history a low threshold for investigation should be adopted for the local population. There was no mortality or significant morbidity associated with the procedure. Medical thoracoscopy is safe and effective in the diagnosis of benign and malignant pleural disease particularly in this high risk population.