This article describes the relationship between fiber biopersistence and the chronic toxicity of different chemical compositions of man-made vitreous fibers (MMVF) in the lung. Rats were exposed in "nose-only" inhalation chambers, 6 hr/day, 5 days/week, for 24 months to aerosol concentrations of 30 mg/m3 containing comparable fiber numbers and similar dimensions of fibrous glass (FG) or refractory ceramic fiber (RCF). Interim sacrifices were performed periodically to monitor fiber number and dimensions in the lung and the progression of pulmonary alterations. At each interim sacrifice, three to six recovery animals were removed from each exposure group and held until two years to determine the biopersistence of fibers after different exposure times. Fibers were recovered from the ashed lungs, counted, and measured using optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Fiber chemistry was assessed in 91-week recovery lungs using energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analysis. RCF induced lung fibrosis and an elevation in lung tumors and pleural mesotheliomas. FG exposure resulted in no lung fibrosis, no statistically significant increase in the lung tumor incidence, and no mesotheliomas. After two years of continuous exposure, the number of World Health Organization fibers per milligram dry lung recovered from RCF and FG exposed lungs was comparable. EDS analysis of recovery lungs showed that most of the alkalis and alkaline earths had leached from the FG fibers over time. A slight change in RCF chemistry was observed. These findings indicate that the change in the chemical composition of fibers may be an important determinant of the chronic toxicity of MMVFs.