Chronic inflammatory lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and emphysema are characterized by higher-than-normal levels of pulmonary proteases. While these enzymes play important roles such as bacterial killing, their dysregulated expression or activity can adversely impact on the inflammatory process. The existence of efficient endogenous control mechanisms that can dampen or halt this overexuberant protease activity in vivo is essential for the effective resolution of inflammatory lung disease. The function of pulmonary antiproteases is to fulfil this role. Interestingly, in addition to their antiprotease activity, protease inhibitors in the lung also often possess other intrinsic properties that contribute to microbial killing or termination of the inflammatory process. This review will outline important features of chronic inflammation that are regulated by pulmonary proteases and will describe the various mechanisms by which antiproteases attempt to counterbalance exaggerated protease-mediated inflammatory events. These proteases, antiproteases and their modifiers represent interesting targets for therapeutic intervention.