This study investigated changes and the time course of these changes in renal function in children following treatment with carboplatin, and identified risk factors for nephrotoxicity. Glomerular and proximal renal tubular function were investigated before and up to 2 years after treatment in 23 children who received carboplatin. The main findings were reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and increased renal tubular loss of magnesium, manifested by a low serum magnesium (S Mg). The mean fall in GFR was 22 ml min(-1) 1.73 m(-2) (P = 0.012), and in S Mg it was 0.17 mmol l(-1) (P = 0.0077). No patient had a clinically important reduction in GFR, and only one patient had symptomatic hypomagnesaemia. GFR and S Mg did not change over time after completion of treatment. Cumulative dose (CD) of carboplatin was inversely related to mean S Mg at the end of treatment (P = 0.031), and directly related to the fall in S Mg (P < 0.001). Calculated cumulative area under the plasma concentration versus time curve (AUC) of carboplatin was inversely related to S Mg after treatment (P = 0.004). Dose intensity (DI) of carboplatin was not shown to be related to S Mg following treatment. CD, AUC and DI of carboplatin were not related to GFR, nor change in GFR, after treatment. High CDs of carboplatin may be associated with evidence of renal damage qualitatively similar to but less severe than that caused by cisplatin. GFR and SMg should be carefully monitored when high CDs of carboplatin are used, or if carboplatin is combined with other nephrotoxic chemotherapy.