The glutathione S-transferase (GST) family of enzymes has a vital role in phase II of biotransformation of environmental carcinogens, pollutants, drugs and other xenobiotics. GSTs are polymorphic, with the type and frequency of polymorphism being ethnic dependent. Polymorphisms in GST genes have been shown to be associated with susceptibility to disease and disease outcome. We determined the frequencies of GSTM1, GSTT1 and GSTP1 polymorphisms in 591 volunteers who had been residents of Rio de Janeiro for at least six months. Blood was collected and DNA extracted by proteinase K/SDS digestion. Information about social habits and health problems was also recorded. GSTM1 and GSTT1 polymorphisms were analyzed by a PCR-Multiplex procedure, whereas GSTP1 polymorphism was analyzed by PCR-RFLP. We found that 42.1% (48.9% of whites and 34.2% of non-whites) of the individuals had the GSTM1 null genotype, whereas 25.4% (25.1% of whites and 25.7% of non-whites) had the GSTT1 null genotype. The genotypic distribution of GSTP1 was 49.7% I/I, 38.1% I/V, and 12.2% V/V, whereas the allelic frequencies were 0.69 for the Ile allele, and 0.31 for the Val allele. The frequencies of GST polymorphisms in this Brazilian population were found to be different from those observed in other populations, particularly of other South American countries.