Healthy adult baboons exposed to 100% oxygen for 5 to 7 days maintained on continuous mechanical ventilation develop severe bilateral noncardiogenic pulmonary edema that resembles in many aspects the human adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In the present study, we evaluated the effects of hyperoxia for 5 to 6 days in 8 baboons to compare changes in abnormalities in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) biochemical markers, hemodynamic measurements, and pulmonary function tests in order to find early predictors of lung injury. All animals had bilateral alveolar infiltrates, severe hypoxemia, and progressive deterioration of pulmonary function tests. Diffuse alveolar damage and mild-moderate pneumonias were found and were associated with low-grade bacterial infection. Total lung capacity, diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide, pulmonary static compliance, and oxygenation were significantly impaired after Day 5; BALF proteins, elastase, and total polymorphonuclear leukocytes increased significantly at least 24 h before (Day 4) any abnormalities in chest radiographs, pulmonary function tests, and hemodynamic measurements were detected. We conclude that exposure to 100% oxygen in this model causes marked gas exchange, hemodynamic, biochemical, cytologic, radiographic, and pathologic changes similar to those noted in patients with ARDS. Bronchoalveolar lavage abnormalities precede hemodynamic and gas exchange abnormalities.