Benzene was assessed as the predominant aromatic compound emitted from glowing charcoal and firewood embers. Concentrations measured above charcoal used for grilling exceeded 10 mg m(-3) at a 5% carbon dioxide level. Charcoal with a high carbon content released less benzene. Glowing wood pellets emitted less benzene than glowing firewood remainders. The emissions of ethene and propene relative to benzene were low for commercial charcoal and wood-pellet embers, but high for firewood ember. The proportions of methylbenzene and naphthalene from charcoal were typically only 10% relative to benzene, and those of benzofuran, dibenzofuran and benzonitrile were typically below 5%. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) indicator phenanthrene was below the 1% level. Adsorbent sampling and GC-MS were used for assessing all the aromatic compounds. Earlier studies of charcoal emissions have focused on carbon monoxide, PAH and dioxins. It is concluded that the carcinogenic benzene may be an even more severe health hazard to be addressed by exposure-decreasing measures.