Recent epidemiologic studies showed increased frequency of birth defects in pesticide applicators and general population of the Red River Valley, Minnesota. These studies further indicated that this crop growing area used more chlorophenoxy herbicides and fungicides than elsewhere in Minnesota. Based on frequency of use and known biology, certain herbicides, pesticide additives, fungicides, and mycotoxins are suspect agents. To define whether these agents affect developmental endpoints in vitro, 16 selected agrochemicals were examined using the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. In the flow cytometric assay, cell proliferation in this estrogen-responsive cell line indicates xenobiotic-mediated estrogenic effects. Cell viability, morphology, ploidy, and apoptosis were incorporated in this assay. Data showed that the adjuvants X-77 and Activate Plus induced significant cell proliferation at 0.1 and 1 microg/ml. The commercial-grade herbicides 2,4-D LV4 and 2,4-D amine induced cell proliferation at 1 and 10 microg/ml. The reagent-grade 2,4-D products failed to induce proliferation over the same concentration range, suggesting that other ingredients in the commercial products, presumably adjuvants, could be a factor in these results. The fungicides triphenyltin and mancozeb induced apoptosis at concentrations of 4.1 microg/ml (10(-5) M) and 50 microg/ml, respectively. Triphenyltin also induced aneuploidy (C2/M arrest) at 0.41 microg/ml (10(-6) M). Data provide a mechanistic step to understanding human reproductive and developmental effects in populations exposed to these agrochemicals, and initiative to focusing limited resources for future in vivo animal developmental toxicity studies.