Eighty-seven workers exposed to asbestos in a railroad car repair shop, with characteristic asbestos-induced pleural plaques, underwent extensive lung-function examination. Vital capacity (VC) showed the greatest reduction among the static lung volumes, with an asymmetrical distribution of one-fourth of the subjects below 80% of the predicted value. Logistic regression demonstrated VC to be sufficient for optimal discrimination of asbestos-exposed subjects from a group of matched controls. No further discriminatory power was gained by additional spirometric measures, lung mechanics, blood gas analysis, or diffusing capacity. Smoking had an influence on dynamic but not on static lung volumes. In conclusion, reduced static lung volumes among smoking asbestos-exposed workers with pleural plaques should, in the absence of other lung diseases, be mainly attributed to the asbestos exposure.