Asbestos fibers and ferruginous bodies (FBs) in lung parenchyma, lung cancer tissues, pleural plaques, and pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma tissues from 13 North American insulation workers were analyzed and quantified using an analytical transmission electron microscope and a polarized microscope. Diseases from which these workers suffered included asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. They had been occupationally exposed to materials containing chrysotile and amosite; their pathological diagnoses, occupational and cigarette smoking histories, and clinical summaries have been reported. Large numbers of FBs were found in the lungs and small numbers found in extrapulmonary sites. Most of the FBs had cores of amosite fibers. In all instances, lung parenchyma and lung cancer tissues showed chrysotile and amosite fibers in high concentrations (63.1 x 10(6) and 150.2 x 10(6) fibers/g dry tissue as mean values, respectively). Crocidolite fibers were seen in seven of the 13 cases, but in much smaller numbers. Other amphiboles were rarely found. In pleural plaques and in pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma tissues, amosite fibers were markedly fewer in number, whereas chrysotile fibers were seen in similar numbers as in the lungs. No significant differences in the size distribution of asbestos fibers were seen in the different sites. However, the mean widths of chrysotile fibers were thinner than those of amosite fibers. These results strongly suggest that translocation of inhaled asbestos fibers from the lung to other tissues, such as the pleura and the peritoneum, occurs frequently, and that chrysotile may be more actively translocated from the lung, compared to amosite or amphibole asbestos. The likelihood of translocation seems to be strongly related to the thinness of the fibers. Translocated chrysotile fibers may play an important role in the induction of either malignant mesothelioma and/or hyaline plaques, since the asbestos fibers detected in both these sites were mainly chrysotile.