The lung is a unique organ in terms of its direct exposure to high levels of oxygen and reactive compounds. Several parenchymal lung diseases (e.g. emphysema associated with smoking and a number of fibrotic lung disorders) have been proposed to be due to the exposure of the lung to exogenous irritants leading to local redox imbalance in the alveolar epithelium. The disease progression of emphysema/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and fibrosis share several common factors, such as the role of reactive oxygen species, disturbances of the pulmonary thiol status and activation of growth factors and tissue destructing proteases. Importantly in COPD or fibrosis, medication does not provide any significant therapeutic effect. This review concentrates on the key thiol (-SH)-regulated mechanisms leading to the development of COPD and/or pulmonary fibrosis and the major redox-regulated defense/oxidant repair mechanisms, thioredoxin/peroxiredoxin and glutaredoxin protein families in the lung. Redox-regulated proteins, both proteases and oxidant repair enzymes, undergo conformational changes during oxidative stress, a process that modulates their activation or inactivation. In addition, some of the redox-regulated proteins influence the metabolism of glutathione (GSH), a major small molecular antioxidant of human lung, and participate in the crosstalk between numbers of GSH associated enzymes functioning in the detoxification pathways of human lung. An understanding of the processes involved in oxidant-mediated lung damage may provide the key to devising interventional strategies that can actually prevent the progression of lung parenchymal disease.