The purpose of this study was to examine the in vivo effects of acute exposure to a cadmium chloride aerosol on the activity of pulmonary enzymes and selected physiologic parameters that are altered by exposure to oxidant agents. Male rats were exposed for 1 hour to 0.5 per cent aerosol of cadmium chloride. At 1,5, and 11 days after exposure to cadmium chloride, exposed rats compared to control rats (data expressed as per cent of control values) had lung-to-body weight ratios of 192, 174, and 140 per cent; lung glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase activities of 90, 107, and 135 per cent; lung superoxide dismutase activities of 96, 101, and 132 per cent; tidal volumes of 62, 63, and 89 per cent; respiratory frequencies of 170, 145, and 108 per cent; and lung weight-specific static deflation volumes at 30 cm water of 30, 13, and 31 per cent. A zero-order clearance of cadmium from whole lung was observed, with a half-time of 27.4 days. Light microscopic examination of lung tissue revealed initial pulmonary edema on day 1 that progressed to interstitial pneumonitis on day 5, with some recovery by 11 days after exposure. The cadmium induced biochemical, physiologic, and pathologic alterations were similar to the responses observed in lungs of rats exposed to a wide variety of pulmonary irritants; thus, the changes observed may represent a nonspecific response to tissue injury.