Four patients with asbestos-related diseases and with unusual exposures underwent bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) for mineralogical analysis. Asbestos bodies (AB) were counted by light microscopy and analyzed by transmission electron microscopy and X-ray energy spectrometry. AB's were found in all cases, after a mean delay from the end of exposure of 27.7 years. Analysis of the core fibers indicated the type of alveolar asbestos burden and was compared with the previous exposures: Pleural plaques due to household exposure to amosite and crocidolite. Pleural plaques due to occult occupational exposure to crocidolite in a coal miner. Asbestosis due to environmental exposure to tremolite in Turkey. Asbestosis, pleural plaques, and peritoneal mesothelioma due to a short, intense exposure to crocidolite. AB counting in BAL and identification of the central fibers by analytical electron microscopy is a useful, non-invasive and reliable method to evaluate the alveolar retention of bio-persistent fibers and to relate them to specific exposures.