Hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) is widely regarded as a cytotoxic agent whose levels must be minimized by the action of antioxidant defence enzymes. In fact, H(2)O(2) is poorly reactive in the absence of transition metal ions. Exposure of certain human tissues to H(2)O(2) may be greater than is commonly supposed: substantial amounts of H(2)O(2) can be present in beverages commonly drunk (especially instant coffee), in freshly voided human urine, and in exhaled air. Levels of H(2)O(2) in the human body may be controlled not only by catabolism but also by excretion, and H(2)O(2) could play a role in the regulation of renal function and as an antibacterial agent in the urine. Urinary H(2)O(2) levels are influenced by diet, but under certain conditions might be a valuable biomarker of 'oxidative stress'.