Toluene, an organic solvent used widely in the industry, is highly lipophilic and accumulates in the cell membrane impeding transport through it. Its metabolites cause oxygen radical formation that react with unsaturated fatty acids and proteins in erythrocytes leading to lipid peroxidation and protein breakdown. In this study, we aimed to investigate the membrane stabilizing and the oxidative stress-inducing effects of toluene in human erythrocytes. Measurements of osmotic fragility, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), oxidative stress parameters and antioxidant enzyme activities were performed simultaneously both in individuals exposed to toluene professionally (in vivo) and human erythrocytes treated with toluene (in vitro). To measure osmotic fragility, erythrocytes were placed in NaCl solutions at various concentrations (0.1% [blank], 0.38%, 0.40%, 0.42%, 0.44%, 0.46%, 0.48% and 1% [stock]). Percentage of haemolysis in each solution was calculated with respect to the 100% haemolysis in the blank solution. The erythrocyte packs prepared at the day of the above-mentioned measurements were kept at -80 degrees C until the time for determination of malonyldialdehyde and protein carbonyl levels, and catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase activities as indicators of oxidative stress. Toluene increased oxidative stress parameters significantly both in vivo and in vitro; it also caused a significant decrease in the activities of antioxidant enzymes. Osmotic fragility was altered only in the case of in vitro exposure. In conclusion, toluene exposure resulted in increased lipid peroxidation and protein damage both in vivo and in vitro. Although, it is natural to expect increased osmotic fragility due to oxidative properties of toluene, its membrane-stabilizing effect overcame the oxidative properties leading to decreased osmotic fragility or preventing its deterioration in vitro and in vivo toluene exposures, respectively, in the present study.