Raised levels of serum IgE antibodies to prawn antigens were found in 15 of 26 seafood factory process workers with respiratory symptoms and in one of 26 case-matched asymptomatic controls (P < 0.001). Raised IgG antibody titres against the same antigens were found in 18 subjects in each symptom grouping, and the median titres of this antibody did not differ significantly between the groups. The prawn-specific IgE antibody response was significantly associated with atopy (IgE antibody response to common allergens) and with a history of cigarette smoking, confirmed by level of serum cotinine, a major nicotine metabolite. Non-atopic non-smokers were unlikely to become sensitized. The titre of the prawn-specific IgE antibody correlated with the duration of exposure and with the duration of symptoms. Discriminant analysis of the serological profile (anti-prawn IgE, total IgE and cotinine) was sufficient to assign individuals correctly into symptomatic or asymptomatic categories in 77% of subjects. The titres of the IgE and IgG antibody responses to prawn antigens did not correlate, and the main factor which seemed to determine the antibody isotype response to these inhaled antigens was cigarette smoking. IgE antibody was produced mainly by smokers, whereas IgG antibody was the predominant isotype produced by non-smokers.