Smoking is thought to be one of the most important anthropogenic risk factors involved in the development of urinary bladder cancer in humans. Tobacco smoke contains a complex mixture of chemicals including potent carcinogens such as aromatic amines. In the present study the amounts of several freebase aromatic amines including the potent carcinogens 2-aminonaphthalene and 4-aminobiphenyl have been analyzed in the urine of 48 German urban living smokers and non-smokers. The results indicate that (i) both groups excrete the identical set of four aromatic amines; (ii) smokers excrete approximately twice the total amount of these amines, but similar amounts of 2-aminonaphthalene and 4-aminobiphenyl are found in non-smokers; and (iii) the excreted aromatic amines are decomposed in the urine within a few hours thus, explaining why aromatic amines are difficult to detect in this matrix. Their decomposition could be prevented by adding small amounts of p-toluidine to the freshly collected urine. Unlike smokers the origin of aromatic amines detected in the urine of non-smokers is at present unknown. Based on the cotinine levels found in the urine of non-smokers environmental tobacco smoke can be excluded as a major source of aromatic amines. In addition, neither diesel exhaust-related nitroarenes nor the corresponding amino-derivatives, to which they may be metabolically converted, were found. The detected urinary levels of aromatic amines arising from sources other than tobacco smoke or diesel exhaust may play a role in the bladder cancer etiology of non-smokers.