The purpose of this study was to determine the potential effects on progressive aerobic work while breathing through a new military type chemical and biological (CB) respirator loaded with three different types of purifying canisters. Twelve healthy well-motivated male subjects (mean age 23 +/- 3 years) participated in the study. Results indicated that mean maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), time to exhaustion, respiratory exchange ratio, rate of perceived exertion, respiratory rate and tidal volume at exhaustion, maximal lactate and the 2-min post-exercise lactate were not significantly influenced when breathing with the respirator and the canisters in comparison to a laboratory valve. Mean pulmonary ventilation, however, was reduced by 21% while oxygen and carbon dioxide ventilatory equivalents were significantly lower by 9% and 8% respectively. Review of the stage-by-stage responses to the treadmill test between the laboratory valve and respirator/canister conditions indicated no significant differences (NS) in oxygen uptake but slightly lower heart rates (NS). Ventilation was not influenced by the canisters until 80% of VO2max at which time the mean oxygen ventilatory equivalent became significantly lower. Blood lactate was significantly depressed between 60% and 90% VO2max under the respirator/canister conditions. It was concluded that, although physiological adaptation occurred, breathing with the new CB respirator and each of the three purifying canisters had no detrimental effect on progressive aerobic work to exhaustion. However, prolonged work at intensities greater than 80-85% of VO2max would in all probability be impaired when breathing with the CB mask and the canisters.