Various chemicals and proteins of industrial importance are known to cause respiratory allergy, with occupational asthma being the most important manifestation of the disease. This paper describes clinical syndromes, mechanisms associated with occupational respiratory hypersensitivity, and methods available currently for the prospective identification of potential respiratory allergens. Certain classes of chemicals are commonly associated with occupational respiratory allergy. There is insufficient information, however, to predict respiratory sensitization potential from analysis of structure alone, although reactivity with proteins is likely to be relevant. As yet there exist no fully validated or widely applied predictive methods or internationally harmonized guidelines. The most promising predictive animal methods are the mouse IgE test and guinea pig models. Work in mice has focused upon events occurring during the induction phase of sensitization following primary encounter with the test chemical. In contrast, guinea pig models have been used primarily to identify respiratory allergens (chemicals or proteins) as a function of elicitation reactions induced in previously sensitized animals. Given the possible serious health manifestations of respiratory allergy, early identification of respiratory sensitizers is urgently required. The two methods should, as a priority, be developed further and the production of a detailed protocol for these methods be undertaken to facilitate further validation. Together, this information will allow for two types of risk assessment associated with respiratory allergy: the risk that exposure to a material will (1) induce sensitization in an individual and (2) elicit allergic reactions in a previously sensitized individual.