Individuals with chronic obstructive lung disease, such as emphysema, may be more susceptible to injury from other inhaled pollutants. However, dose-response studies of inhaled radionuclides conducted to aid in estimating the biological effects of inhaled radionuclides in man have typically used healthy laboratory animals. Changes in radionuclide deposition, distribution and retention in the lungs as the result of pre-existing lung diseases could alter the radiation dose or the resulting biological effects. An experimental animal model for human emphysema, in which emphysema is induced by the intratracheal instillation of either elastase or papain, has been reviewed. This model was used to study the effects of pulmonary emphysema on the deposition, distribution and retention of inhaled /sup 239/PuO/sub 2/ in rats.