ABSTRACT Seventeen men were studied during the cleaning of bottom ash from the boiler of an oil-fired electricity generating station. The men were exposed to a time weighted average respirable dust (<10 μ) of 523 μg/m3, containing 15·3% vanadium. Sixteen of the men wore respirators, subsequently found to have peak leakages of up to 9%, while one volunteer had a one-hour exposure wearing only a compressed paper oronasal mask. Symptoms experienced by the men were recorded, urine samples were collected for assessment of vanadium concentration 24 hours after the first exposure, and spirometry was performed daily for four days and on the eight day. Pronounced reductions in forced vital capacity (mean 0·5 l), forced expiratory volume (mean 0·5 l), and forced mid-expiratory flow (mean 1·16 l/s) had occurred within 24 hours of first exposure to the dust, and had not returned to pre-exposure levels by the eight day. Four weeks after exposure no residual deficits were present. A urinary vanadium concentration of 280 μg/l was found in the volunteer, but none of the others had concentrations above the test-threshold of 40 μg/l. Symptoms and signs of airway irritation were noted. The timing, duration, and quality of changes in lung function, however, indicated that the response could not be attributed solely to a reflex bronchial reaction to irritation by an inert dust.