Using a newly available program for calculating the concentrations and speciation of various ions (Pettit, LD & Powell KJ, 'SolEq' Academic Software, 1999), we have calculated that at pH 7 the amount of free Fe(III) present in an aqueous solution is 1.4 x 10(-9) M and not 10(-18) M as is usually quoted. In the presence of salicylic acid, included in the calculations at 10(-4) M, the solubility of Fe(III) is increased to only 9.8 x 10(-9) M suggesting that salicylate is unable to act as a siderophore although it is produced as an extracellular product by several bacterial genera when grown iron deficiently. In the presence of 40 mM phosphate, the soluble Fe(III) concentration is decreased by 10(4) at pH 7 and again this is hardly affected by the presence of salicylate. Thus, for microorganisms grown either in vitro or in vivo, salicylate is unlikely to function as a iron solubilizing agent. The same conclusions may also apply to 2,3-dihydroxybenzoic acid.