Exposure to cotton dust is known to cause both acute and chronic respiratory illness. A specific pattern of symptoms called byssinosis is well described to occur among workers in the cotton processing (e.g., yarn preparation) industry. Recent studies have implicated Gram-negative bacterial endotoxin as one of the agents responsible for acute, and possibly chronic, respiratory illness. Laboratory experiments using a model cardroom have found poor correlations between airborne dust and associated endotoxin. This study reports the results of vertical elutriated dust and endotoxin levels in 11 work areas of 2 cotton textile mills in 1986 in Shanghai, China. The overall correlation between dust and endotoxin was strong, rs + 0.66 and 0.79 (p < 0.0001) for mills 1 and 2, respectively. The dust-endotoxin correlation was relatively poor in early yarn preparation in the workshops and improved in the later preparation areas. Our findings suggest that in these mill settings, dust and endotoxin levels may be well correlated in most work areas. Therefore, dust may be a useful index for monitoring populations employed in the cotton textile industry throughout the world. Additional field studies need to be performed which consider the various determinants of dust and endotoxin levels. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.