Previous studies, including the analysis on which the current 2 fibres/cm3 hygiene standard is based, may have underestimated the risk of morbidity or mortality following exposure to low levels of asbestos dust. Accurate dose-response data at levels below 2 fibres/cm3 are unlikely to be available for the foreseeable future, and the biologically plausible assumption that excess cancer mortality is approximately proportional to dust level should be provisionally accepted. It may be reasonable, however, to postulate a safe threshold for mortality from asbestosis. If excess mortality from asbestos-related disease is proportional to dust level for each cause, approximately 10% of male asbestos workers might, under certain assumptions, eventually die of asbestos-induced disease after 50 years' exposure at 2 fibres/cm3. Peritoneal mesothelioma is usually due to crocidolite (blue asbestos) or other amphiboles, but exposure to chrysotile (white asbestos) alone may lead to a substantial risk of pleural mesothelioma. These predictions are based on rather small numbers in a single factory, and further studies in other working environments are required. Fibre counts based on optical microscopy are likely to be less relevant than total counts by electron microscopy, and excess mortality is virtually confined to men first exposed more than 20 years ago, when little or no accurate data on dust levels were collected.