Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) induced apoptosis-associated characteristics in human oral tumor cell lines more efficiently than ascorbates, gallic acid, vitamin K, flavonoids or steroidal saponins. Since catalase partially inhibited the cytotoxic activity of EGCG, the possible involvement of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in cell death induction was investigated, using TCPO chemiluminescence method. Production of H2O2 by EGCG, sodium ascorbate, gallic acid or catechin reached a maximum level within 30 minutes, and was increased up to a plateau level above pH 8. Under optimal conditions, 1 mM EGCG was converted to 1 mM H2O2. At neutral pH, EGCG produced the highest amount of H2O2, followed by gallic acid, sodium ascorbate and catechin. EGCG produced methionine sulfoxide from methionine in the culture medium, while the methionine oxidation by EGCG was significantly reduced in the presence of serum. ESR spectroscopy showed that EGCG, gallic acid and sodium ascorbate, but not catechin, produced radicals under alkaline condition and that all these compounds scavenged superoxide anion, produced by hypoxanthine-xanthine oxidase reaction. EGCG also effectively scavenged the ascorbate and gallate radicals, more efficiently than other compounds. These data suggest that the apoptosis induction by EGCG may be mediated by H2O2 produced in the culture medium.