Pneumoconioses are characterized as irreversible, progressive respiratory diseases. No effective therapy exists to prevent progression of these diseases. Whole-lung lavage (WLL) might limit the rate of disease progression through the removal of dust, inflammatory cells, and cytokines. We performed WLL on a 54-year-old underground miner employed as a motorman and roof bolter and a 55-year-old driller at a surface coal mine. Both demonstrated normal lung function and chest radiographs showing ILO profusion category 2 nodular interstitial changes. From Subject 1, we recovered 5.24 x 10(8) cells (90% macrophages) from the right lung and 3.45 x 10(8) cells (94% macrophages) from the left lung. WLL removed 1.82 g of mineral dust (non-coal) on the right and 1.64 g on the left. From Subject 2, we recovered 7.49 x 10(8) cells (46% macrophages) from the right and 9.78 x 10(8) cells (69% macrophages) from the left lung. WLL removed 0.40 g of mineral dust on the right and 0.53 g on the left. Proinflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and cellular enzymes were also recovered. In cases of pneumoconiosis, WLL is capable of removing relatively large quantities of dust, cells, and soluble materials from the lungs. Only long-term follow-ups of individuals with progressive dust-induced disease who receive WLL therapy in the context of a clinical trial will provide information regarding the importance of removing mineral dust and inflammatory cells from the lung.