Since the formation of acrylamide (AA) in the heating process of starch-containing food could be demonstrated and high contents of this substance were found in commercial food products, there is a great discussion about the possible human health risks connected with this dietary exposure. In order to determine the body burden of the general population in Germany caused by this uptake, we investigated the internal exposure to acrylamide and acrylonitrile in a group of 72 persons using haemoglobin adducts as parameters of biochemical effects. The collective was subdivided into non-smokers and smokers basing on the results of the smoking-specific acrylonitrile adduct (N-cyanoethylvaline, CEV). The median value for the adduct of AA (N-2-carbamoylethylvaline, AAV) in 25 non-smokers was 21 pmol/g globin (approximately 0.6 microgram/l blood) with a 95 percentile of 46 pmol/g globin (approximately 1.3 micrograms/l) (LOD: 12 pmol/g globin). The median level for AAV in smokers (n = 47) was found to be 85 pmol/g globin (approximately 2.3 micrograms/l blood) with a 95 percentile of 159 pmol/g globin (approximately 4.3 micrograms/l blood). Based on these results about 60 micrograms AA/d are taken up by adult non-smoking persons. According to calculations of WHO and US EPA this background exposure would lead to a cancer risk between 6 x 10(-4) and 3.6 x 10(-3). Our results confirm a body burden to AA even in persons from the non-smoking general population in Germany that is most probably caused by dietary uptake. Smoking habits considerably contribute to the level of this adduct.