Lung volumes and blood gas tensions were measured in 144 males awaiting coronary artery surgery. Patients were divided into three groups according to their body mass index. Functional residual capacity (FRC), expiratory reserve volume (ERV) and arterial oxygen tension (PaO2) were reduced in the 91 patients with Grade I obesity (mean +/- SD weight, 81.1 +/- 9.0 kg) compared with the results obtained in the 28 patients of normal weight (Grade 0, 70.8 +/- 8.8 kg). The magnitude of the reduction was greater in the Grade II obesity patients (90.1 +/- 8.8 kg, n = 25). Mean values were: FRC 3.45, 3.17, 2.66 l; ERV 1.10, 0.77, 0.59 l and PaO2 11.05, 10.47, 9.99 kPa in patients with Grades 0, I and II obesity respectively. The alveolar-arterial oxygen difference (A-aPO2) was significantly higher in the obese patients. Mean A-aPO2 was 2.47, 3.14 and 3.88 kPa in patients with Grades 0, I and II, respectively. We conclude that obesity, even when mild, significantly impairs lung function.