A review of hazardous agents encountered in the construction industry was presented. OSHA identified construction exposures, classified as carcinogenic or having nonmalignant respiratory effects, OSHA proposed permissible exposure limits for these agents, and compliance monitoring data were provided. Surveillance data on respiratory disease among construction workers taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the Department of Labor showed that among construction workers, respiratory conditions accounted for 14.3% of all reported occupational illnesses in 1991. Prevalence rates of respiratory conditions were generated from data taken from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey. A rate ratio of 2.15 for asbestosis was calculated for construction workers compared to other workers in the survey. Other rate ratios calculated were 1.7 for lung cancer, 0.82 for asthma, 1.34 for emphysema, and 1.30 for chronic bronchitis. Proportionate mortality ratios for lung cancer, nonmalignant respiratory disease, pleural cancer, silicosis and asbestosis in different construction trades were developed from NIOSH mortality surveillance data. Increased risks of specific respiratory diseases for various construction jobs were discussed, including lung, larynx, oropharyngeal and nasal cancers, mesothelioma, asbestosis, silicosis, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and occupational asthma. Painters and welders were also considered subject to inhalation injuries, irritations and fevers. Additionally, site specific exposures to infectious agents were seen as possible causes of respiratory infections in construction workers. The difficulty in characterizing and controlling unanticipated exposures to construction workers was mentioned. The long latency period of respiratory ailments, the mobility of construction workers, and exposure to multiple hazards were considered obstructions to epidemiological studies of construction workers. The authors conclude that construction workers are at increased risk of developing occupational respiratory disease.