Benign asbestos effusion was defined by (1) exposure to asbestos, (2) confirmation by roentgenograms or thoracenteses, (3) no other disease related to pleural effusion, and (4) no malignant tumor within three years. There were 34 benign effusions among 1,135 exposed workers compared with no otherwise unexplained effusions among 717 control subjects. Prevalence was dose related with 7.0%, 3.7%, and 0.2% effusions with severe (III), indirect (II), and peripheral (I) exposure, respectively. The latency period was shorter than for other asbestos-related disorders. Benign effusion was the most common asbestos-related abnormality during the first 20 years after exposure. Incidence studies showed 9.2 effusions per 1,000 person-years for level III exposure, 3.9 for level II, and 0.7 for level I. Most effusions were small; 28.6% recurred, and 66% were asymptomatic. There was one mesothelioma six years after effusion. Asbestos exposure should be carefully searched for in patients with "idiopathic" pleural effusion.