To assess the quantitative relation between exposure to airborne cadmium and various markers of renal tubular and glomerular function, 45 male workers employed at a plant that recovers cadmium from industrial waste and 32 male hospital workers of similar age and geographical location were examined. Cumulative external exposure to airborne cadmium (dose) was estimated from historical air sampling data, adjusted for respirator use. Increasing cadmium dose was associated with multiple renal tubular functional abnormalities, including reduced reabsorption of beta-2-microglobulin (beta-2), retinol binding protein (RBP), calcium, and phosphate. Serum creatinine concentration also increased with cadmium dose, suggesting impaired glomerular function. Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures were higher in the cadmium workers than in the unexposed (134 v 120 mm Hg and 80 v 73 mm Hg respectively), but only systolic blood pressure was significantly associated with cadmium dose in multivariate analyses. Cadmium dose remained the most important predictor of serum creatinine concentration after controlling for age, blood pressure, body size, and other extraneous factors. Logistic regression to model the probability (prevalence) of various renal abnormalities with increasing dose of cadmium was used. The probability of multiple tubular abnormalities and raised serum creatinine concentration increased sharply at cumulative cadmium exposures exceeding 300 mg/m3 days, corresponding to working for 4.3 years at the current permissible United States exposure limit for cadmium dust.