Obstructive disease involving peripheral airways has been noted in diffuse interstitial pulmonary disease, including sarcoidosis and cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis. The possibility of obstruction of small airways in progressive systemic sclerosis (PSS) has been suggested by widespread bronchiolectasis and peribronchial fibrosis noted at necropsy. We performed pulmonary function studies in 39 subjects (22 nonsmokers and 17 smokers) with PSS, most of whom had functional evidence of interstitial pulmonary involvement (increased static recoil pressure and reduced diffusing capacity). The 1 second forced expiratory volume to forced vital capacity ratio (FEV1:FVC) was normal in all subjects. Although the severity of the restrictive process was greater in nonsmokers compared with that in smokers, the maximal mid-expiratory flow rate, closing volume, closing capacity, volume of isoflow, change in maximal expiratory flow at 50 per cent of vital capacity during 80 per cent helium--20 per cent oxygen breathing compared with air breathing (delta Vmax50), ratio of dynamic to static lung compliance at different breathing frequencies and upstream airway conductance at static recoil pressures of 5 and 10 cm H2O were nearly always normal in the nonsmokers but were frequently abnormal in the smokers with PSS. These findings suggest that diffuse interstitial pulmonary disease due to PSS generally does not lead to functional evidence of obstruction in peripheral airways and that when the latter is found it can likely be attributed to the effects of concomitant cigarette smoking.