An epidemiologic investigation was carried out to clarify the significance of the urinary excretion of alpha 1-microglobulin (alpha 1-MG) in people aged 50 years and over living in a Cd-polluted area in Japan. Approximately 80% of the population participated in the health examination. The urinary and serum levels and the relative clearance of alpha 1-MG to creatinine clearance were compared with various parameters (age, urinary beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2-MG), total protein, Cd, Cu and Zn, serum beta 2-MG, creatinine and blood urea nitrogen and relative clearances of alpha 1-MG, beta 2-MG, inorganic phosphate and uric acid). It was found that the urinary excretion of alpha 1-MG is closely associated with the urinary Cd and Cu and with the indices of renal dysfunction listed above. These results suggest that the urinary alpha 1-MG level markedly reflects a degree of proximal tubular dysfunction and that it may be useful as one of the screening measures for proximal tubular dysfunction caused by environmental Cd exposure.