Antioxidants located in the lining layer of the respiratory tract may be important in determining sensitivity of lung tissues to inhaled pollutants. This study addressed species differences in the amounts of ascorbic acid (AH2), glutathione (GSH), uric acid (UA), and alpha-tocopherol (AT) in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and cells of humans, guinea pigs, and rats. Protein and lipid phosphorus (lipid P) were used as normalizing factors. More than 90% of the lavageable AH2, UA, GSH, protein, and lipid P was present in the extracellular fraction of BAL in rats and guinea pigs, while over 95% of the lavageable AT was located in the BAL cells. BAL fluid AH2/protein in rats was 7- to 9-fold higher than in humans and guinea pigs. However, human BAL fluid had 2- to 8-fold higher UA/protein. GSH/protein, and AT/protein ratios than rats and guinea pigs. In BAL cells, rats had higher AH2/protein and AT/protein ratios than guinea pigs and humans, and both rats and guinea pigs had higher GSH and AT/protein ratios than humans. Individual variability among humans in the BAL fluid and cellular antioxidants was generally greater than in the laboratory animals. These data demonstrate that some large species differences exist in BAL fluid and cellular antioxidants which could affect susceptibility to oxidant pollutants.