Burkholderia (Pseudomonas) cepacia is an important pathogen amongst persons with cystic fibrosis (CF), and evidence suggests that transmission of strains within CF clinics contributes to pulmonary colonization of some patients. In order to optimize preventive strategies, the survival of B. cepacia on various environmental surfaces, including cotton cloth, stainless steel, latex and polyvinylchloride (PVC) tubing, was investigated. For surface inoculation, bacteria were suspended in phosphate buffered saline, sputum from CF patients, or sputum from persons without CF. The results demonstrate that amongst the strains examined, organisms survived significantly (P < 0.001) longer when suspended in sputum from CF patients than in either non-CF sputum or buffered saline. Significant (P < 0.001) differences in survival on the various surfaces were found; survival was greatest on PVC. Significant (P < 0.001) strain-to-strain differences in survival were also demonstrated; patient isolates representing predominant CF centre ribotypes survived longest. These data demonstrate that (1) B. cepacia can survive for long periods in respiratory droplets on environmental surfaces typically found in CF clinics, (2) undefined factors in sputum from patients with CF may contribute to survival of B. cepacia, and (3) strain-to-strain variation in survival time may affect strain transmissibility.