In a multidisciplinary study of risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a significantly more impairment of forced expiration was observed in ABH nonsecretors than in ABH secretors among 1017 white adults. (ABH refers to the "A" and "B" antigens of the ABO blood group system and "H", the heterogenetic substance which is found in persons of all ABO types including type "O".) Nonsecretors had significantly lower mean values of forced expiratory volume in one second as a percentage of forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC%) and a significantly larger proportion of them had aberrant values, defined as FEV1/FVC% less than 68. These differences remained when mean values or rates of aberrancy were adjusted for other factors reported to alter risk of airway obstruction. In view of the known COPD-peptic ulcer and nonsecretor-duodenal ulcer associations, these findings suggest that the ability to secrete ABH antigens into secretions of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract may have a protective effect on epithelialized organs in general, or on the lung and portions of the gut specifically.