Silica or volcanic ash (VA) was administered to rats via intratracheal instillation and the changes in extracellular (i.e., lavage fluid) and tissue phospholipids, as well as various biochemical parameters, were monitored over a six month period. VA produced relatively minor (up to 2.8-fold) increases in lung tissue or lavage fluid phospholipids that were maximal at one month post-instillation. These increases were quantitatively similar to the increases in protein and DNA content of lung tissue and lavage fluid induced by VA and, thus, may be attributable to hypercellularity and accumulation of cellular breakdown products in the alveolar lumen. Instillation of silica produced a much greater (up to 11-fold) increase than VA in total phospholipid over time, primarily due to a 14-fold increase in phosphatidylcholine (PC). The accumulation of PC was more pronounced in the lavage fluid during the first month following silica instillation, but thereafter progressed more rapidly in the lung tissue.