Occupational asthma is a highly prevalent disease among snow crab-processing workers, but its immunologic mechanism has not been identified. Prick skin tests with snow crab-meat extract, commercial extracts from other crab genera, and snow crab cooking water collected in 1984 were performed on 119 workers. Crab-specific IgE was assessed by RAST in sera from 115 workers with meat and water extracts. Both skin and RAST tests were performed in 58 individuals. Diagnosis of occupational asthma had previously been confirmed in 54 individuals. A highly significant relationship was demonstrated between the presence of immediate skin reactivity or increased serum levels of specific IgE to crab extracts and the occurrence of occupational asthma. There was good agreement between the results of skin and RAST tests with extracts of either meat or snow crab cooking water. Cooking water and snow crab-meat extracts were more sensitive than commercial preparations. Water extract was more potent and more sensitive than meat extract. We conclude that there is evidence that occupational asthma in snow crab-processing workers is mediated through an IgE mechanism.