People employed in the shoe manufacture and repair industry are at an increased risk for cancer, the strongest evidence being for nasal cancer and leukaemia. A possible causal role for formaldehyde is likely for cancer of the buccal cavity and nasopharynx. Exfoliated buccal cells are good source of tissue for monitoring human exposure to inhaled and ingested occupational and environmental genotoxicants. To assess the cytogenetic damage related to occupational exposure to airborne chemicals during shoe-making and the processes in pathology and anatomy laboratories, the micronuclei (MN) count per 3000 cells was measured in buccal smears from shoe-workers (group I, n = 22) exposed to mainly n-hexane, toluene and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and from anatomy and pathology staff (group II, n = 28) exposed to formaldehyde (FA). Eighteen male university staff were used as controls. The mean time-weighted average (TWA) concentrations of n-hexane, toluene and MEK in 10 small shoe workshops were 58.07 p. p. m., 26.62 p. p. m. and 11.39 p. p. m., respectively. The measured air concentrations of FA in the breathing zone of the anatomy and pathology laboratory workers were between 2 and 4 p. p. m. Levels of 2,5-hexadione (2,5-HD) and hippuric acid (HA), metabolic markers of n-hexane and toluene exposure, respectively, were significantly higher in the urine of workers in group I than in control subjects (p < 0: 001 and p < 0: 01, respectively). The mean (+/- SD) MN frequencies in buccal mucosa cells from workers in group I, group II and controls were 0.62 +/- 0.45%, 0.71 +/- 0.56% and 0.33 +/- 0.30%, respectively (p < 0: 05 and p < 0: 05 compared with controls for group I and group II, respectively). The effects of smoking, age and duration of exposure on the frequency of micronucleated buccal cells from workers in all three groups studied were also evaluated. Overall, the results suggest that occupational exposure to organic solvents, mainly n-hexane, toluene, MEK and FA, may cause cytogenetic damage in buccal cells and that use of exfoliated buccal cells seems to be appropriate to measure exposure to organic solvents.