The relationships of haptoglobin level to respiratory and allergic parameters have been assessed in an epidemiological study conducted in a working population surveyed twice 5 years apart. At the first survey conducted in 892 working men, haptoglobin level was significantly related to FEV1 (r = -0.18; P less than 0.001) and smoking habits. After adjustment for smoking, a history of wheezing was significantly related to lower haptoglobin level. A second survey conducted in 304 men of the original sample 5 years later confirmed that haptoglobin was related to FEV1 (r = -0.21; P less than 0.001) and that wheezing was significantly related to hypohaptoglobinaemia (lower decile; P = 0.04). Men who exhibited bronchial hyper-responsiveness to methacholine had haptoglobin levels 0.35 g/l higher than those who did not (P = 0.01). Haptoglobin level was unrelated to IgE level and skin prick tests. These results support the hypothesis of the role of inflammation in both lower lung function and bronchial hyper-responsiveness. They suggest that some heterogeneity exists within subjects with a history of wheezing.