In spring 1998, two women were diagnosed with severe 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo- p-dioxin (TCDD) intoxication. Over the following 3 years, TCDD levels were monitored under various attempts to enhance its elimination, and the half-lives were evaluated. Olestra, a non-digestible, non-absorbable dietary fat substitute, was continuously administered to the patients either as pure substance or in potato-chips. Additionally, in the more severely contaminated patient, we studied whether low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-apheresis, an extracorporeal means of blood lipid elimination, was effective in reducing the TCDD body burden. The blood concentrations initially measured in spring 1998 were 144,000 pg/g blood fat in patient 1 and 26,000 pg/g in patient 2, the highest levels ever measured in adults. In March 2001, concentrations in blood fat were 35,900 and 9,500 pg/g, corresponding to overall elimination half-lives of 560 days (1.5 years) in patient 1 and 1050 days (2.9 years) in patient 2, which are considerably shorter than median values of 7-9 years reported for background and moderate exposure levels. Calculations of the TCDD half-lives and measurements of TCDD elimination via different routes allowed the calculation of an unidentified route of elimination, representing 78 and 62% of the overall elimination in patient 1 and 2, respectively, probably due to an induced hepatic metabolism caused by the high TCDD exposure. As previously reported, administration of olestra was found to be effective in increasing the fecal excretion of TCDD. Due to the short half-lives in our patients, the effect of olestra on the overall elimination was relatively small, but is expected to be much greater for 'normal' half-lives. LDL-apheresis was shown to eliminate TCDD, corresponding to the eliminated blood fat. When employed twice a week, the amount of TCDD excreted by this method was comparable to fecal excretion. In view of costs and time involved, LDL-apheresis does not seem to be justified for enhancement of TCDD elimination.