Aim To compare chest digital tomosynthesis (DTS) with digital radiography for the detection of asbestos-related pleuropulmonary disease. Materials and methods The institutional review board approved this study and all participants gave informed consent. Forty-five participants with a history of asbestos exposure were examined with DTS and radiography. Low-dose multidetector computed tomography (CT) in the prone position served as the reference. Two observers evaluated all images for the presence of pleural abnormalities and asbestosis. Interobserver agreement was analysed by using the k statistic. Diagnostic performance of the two imaging methods was compared using McNemar's test. Results Interobserver agreement regarding DTS findings was moderate to very good (k = 0.544–0.846) and superior to the radiographic findings (k = 0.236–1.000). Overall, the diagnostic accuracy of DTS for the lesion detection was significantly better than with radiography (all p < 0.05, except that for the comparison of diagnostic accuracy of DTS versus radiographic detection of left diaphragmatic plaques and asbestosis). DTS was more sensitive than radiography for the detection of asbestosis (82% versus 27%, p = 0.031). Conclusion DTS is more accurate than radiography in the detection of pleural plaques and more sensitive than radiography in the detection of asbestosis. Interobserver agreements with respect to the DTS findings were superior to the radiographic findings.