A test designed to estimate the extent and rate of formation of 7-hydroxycoumarin by measuring the urinary excretion of the metabolite in humans after administering 5 mg coumarin was developed. Coumarin was rapidly metabolized after oral administration and more than 95% of the 7OHC formed was excreted in 4 h. The total amount of 7OHC formed was 64 +/- 15% (mean +/- SD, variation 20-100%) of the dose given. The percentage of 7OHC excreted in 2 h, as compared with the 7OHC excretion in 4 h, was found to be a constant and stable individual characteristic for the rate of the formation of 7OHC ('2 h coumarin test'). In 110 volunteers, there was a great interindividual variability in the extent and rate of 7OHC formation. Four individuals had relatively 'slow' coumarin test values (50-60%), but much larger populations would be needed for the demonstration of polymorphism.