To investigate possible persistent nephrotoxic effects of trichloroethylene (TRI), a retrospective study was carried out on 39 workers exposed to high levels of TRI from 1956 to 1975. Total protein levels in urine, as well as serum and urine creatinine and serum urea were unchanged in comparison with the control. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) was applied to differentiate between tubular and/or glomerular dysfunction. Urinary excretion of alpha-1-microglobulin and glutathione transferase (GST) alpha, as markers of proximal tubular damage, were correlated with the SDS-PAGE patterns of urinary proteins both in the TRI exposed and the control group. GST alpha was found in elevated concentrations in the urine of the TRI-exposed workers. No increase of urinary GST alpha was observed in the control group, even when alpha-1-microglobulin was elevated as a result of non-toxic damage. Both in the control and exposed groups, GST pi, a marker of distal tubular damage, was in the normal range. The results show that chronic exposure to high doses of TRI causes persistent changes to the proximal tubular system of the kidney and that GST alpha excretion into the urine is a marker well suited for quantitation of the extent of renal damage.