We analyzed six spirometric data sets collected in the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy. The objectives were to establish whether (1) it was possible to describe spirometric indices from childhood to adulthood, taking into account the adolescent growth spurt, and (2) there are systematic differences in ventilatory function between children and adolescents in different parts of Western Europe. The study comprised 2,269 girls and 3,592 boys, aged 6-21 years. The range in standing height was 110-185 in girls, 110-205 in boys. The model applicable to all data sets was ln FVC or ln FEV1 = a + (b + c x A) x H, where H = standing height and A = age; this model prevents the phase shift between the adolescent growth spurt in length and lung volume from leading to an age-dependent bias in predicted values. There was surprising agreement between most of the data sets; systematic differences are probably due to technical factors arising from ATPS-BTPS corrections and from defining the end of breath with pneumotachometer systems. Taking those into account, prediction equations for FVC, FEV1, and FEV1%FVC were developed with "lower limits of normal" which should be applicable to children and adolescents of European descent. It is proposed that the approach of analyzing available data sets should also be applied to other ventilatory indices, data collected in adults and elderly subjects, or in other ethnic groups, and that an international data base be set up to that end.