The aim of the present work was to characterize the immune status of 385 individuals who participated in the 1986-90 clean-up work of the after effects of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. Fifty-nine Chernobyl clean-up workers developed the most common thyroid diseases; euthyroid nodular and diffuse goiter; 47 healthy blood donors were taken as controls. The levels of immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG and IgM), the numbers of peripheral blood leukocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, T lymphocytes and their subpopulations (CD3+, CD4+, CD8+), B lymphocytes (CD19+), natural killer (NK) cells (CD16+), classical and alternative pathway activity of complement (CH50, APH50), the C3 split product C3d, and neutrophil phagocytosis were determined in the peripheral blood. We found a significantly decreased number of CD16+ cells (natural killer), of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes, a reduced neutrophil phagocytic activity as well as a significant complement activation in Chernobyl clean-up workers with and without thyroid diseases when compared with normal levels and those in the control group. In addition, the number of CD3+ and CD4+ cells was significantly higher in patients with nodular goiter when compared with that in patients with diffuse goiter. Levels of IgG and numbers of monocytes were significantly decreased in persons who worked in Chernobyl in 1986 during the first 2 months after the accident (with maximal radiation exposure) but were without correlation to thyroid disorders. Our results clearly reflect an impaired immune system in the Chernobyl clean-up workers even 10-14 years after the nuclear accident.