There is extensive evidence that exposure to asbestos causes pulmonary parenchymal fibrosis, pleural disease, and malignant neoplasm in asbestos-exposed workers. However, few data concerning brake-lining workers are available in the literature. In this study, we aimed to assess the long-term effects of chrysotile asbestos exposure on lung function and the risk of asbestos-related diseases in brake-lining workers. Seventy-four asbestos-exposed workers who processed brake-lining products and 12 unexposed office workers were offered pulmonary function tests (spirometry and transfer factor) in 1992 and 1999. In 1999, the mean duration of asbestos exposure was 10.00+/-4.07 and 11.02+/-4.81 years (7-31 years) in nonsmoking and smoking asbestos workers, respectively. Transfer factor (T-L, CO) and transfer coefficient (K-CO) decline were significant in the 7-year follow-up in both smoking and nonsmoking asbestos workers. However, lung function indices of the control group, whom were all current smokers; were also found to be decreased, including FEF75, T-L, CO and K-CO. We found minimal reticular changes in 10 asbestos workers who were all current smokers, they underwent high-resolution computed tomography scans of the chest and we found that they had peribronchial thickening resulting from smoking. As a conclusion, even in the absence of radiographic asbestosis, T-L, CO and K-CO may decrease after a mean 10-year duration of exposure to asbestos in brake-lining workers and this is more noticeable with cigarette burden. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.