Toluene is used widely, not only in industry, but also in households where toluene exposure and abuse can occur. To estimate the genotoxic risk of toluene exposure, DNA damage was determined in peripheral lymphocytes of 20 glue sniffers and 20 age-matched controls by use of the alkaline comet assay. Urinary hippuric acid and o-cresol excretion rates, which are used as a marker for toluene exposure, were also measured in sniffers and compared with historical control values. The increase in genetic damage in sniffers was statistically significant as compared to control subjects (P < 0.0001). The mean values of the hippuric acid and o-cresol excretion rate for glue sniffers was 73- and 1582-fold higher, respectively, than in controls and confirms the putative exposure. Education of the general public and efforts to keep adolescents away from volatile solvent-based products, which may lead to a desire of sniffing in the future, would be advisable. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.