Abstract It is postulated that insoluble mineral residues in the lungs of deceased miners may provide a quantitative measure of the integrated lifetime dust exposure. For epidemiological surveys rapid instrumental techniques are required to analyse representative samples of lung tissue. Particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) has been evaluated for analysis of microtomed slices of wax-embedded lung and lymph node (Hilar gland) tissue from deceased miners. The 50 μm slices, mounted on Mylar backings and placed in a He atmosphere, were irradiated using 3.2 MeV protons. PIXE analysis provided adequate sensitivity for key mineral elements including Si, Cr and Ti. The porous, nonuniform nature of lung tissue made it impossible to measure the tissue mass in the irradiated area, preventing the calculation of mass concentrations. Instead, biological sulphur was used as an internal standard, assuming that the fraction of S in soft, fat-free tissue is constant. Results are presented for lung and lymph node tissue from gold, chrome, copper, platinum and asbestos miners. Si mineral residues in lymph node tissue were found to be concentrated by a factor 50 relative to lung. Cr residues were clearly observed in the chrome miner's lung, but no excess of Cu was present in the copper miner's lung. There is evidence of preferential Si removal relative to Ti. Results warrant further development of PIXE for scanning of large numbers of lung samples prepared in the above manner.