We performed a nationwide epidemiologic study of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) in Japan by questionnaire and found that 835 cases of HP were recognized during the 1980s; 74.4% were summer-type HP, 8.1% farmer's lung, 4.3% ventilation pneumonitis, 4.1% bird fancier's lung, 2.3% other types, such as chemical worker's lung, and 6.8% of unknown causative agent. It was found that the CD4/CD8 ratios of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) lymphocytes were significantly different with the type of disease. The ratio was 0.6 +/- 0.1 (mean +/- SEM) in summer-type HP (N = 271), 4.4 +/- 0.7 in farmer's lung (N = 22), 1.6 +/- 0.3 in ventilation pneumonitis (N = 19), and 2.0 +/- 0.5 in bird fancier's lung (N = 19). In farmer's lung, the CD4/CD8 ratio in smokers was 6.2 +/- 1.9 (N = 6) in contrast with 3.4 +/- 0.7 for nonsmokers (N = 16) (p less than 0.05). It has been generally considered that the phenotypes of BAL lymphocytes in patients with HP are predominately CD8 cells. Our present results, however, indicate that the phenotypes of BAL lymphocytes vary with the type of HP, probably depending on factors such as causative agent, smoking, or staging of the disease.