A study of the prevalence of respiratory illness among construction painters was conducted. The cohort consisted of 225 male regular and apprentice members of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. They completed a questionnaire seeking information on their medical and occupational history, extent of exposure to paints, respiratory symptoms, and smoking habits. Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and mean forced expiratory flow during the middle half of the FVC maneuver were measured. Length of employment as a painter was significantly associated with an increased prevalence of chronic obstructive disease. The prevalence of symptoms such as nose irritation and frequent cough which improved over weekends increased with increasing number of weeks using solvent paints during the preceding year. Painters who reported symptoms of chronic bronchitis used spray application methods more frequently than the other subjects. The prevalence of chronic obstructive disease was not significantly associated with time spent spray painting. Decreases in FEV1 were significantly, positively associated with years employed as a painter. The decrease was about 11 milliliters per year of exposure. The FEV1 decrement in smokers was significantly higher in smokers than nonsmokers. The authors conclude that the prevalence of chronic obstructive disease is associated with years of exposure to paint but not with the fraction of time spent spray painting, whereas the prevalence of chronic bronchitis is associated with the fraction of time spent spray painting. This may reflect differences in etiology, differing selection factors for spray painting versus other types of painting, or other uncontrolled confounding factors.