The H4IIE rat hepatoma cell line was employed as a cell model to screen 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD)-TCDD equivalents (EROD-TEQ) of human breast milk samples collected from Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. The screening methods employed a 96-well plate spectrofluorometer-EROD assay. For cell-line validation, our results demonstrated a dose-dependent increase in the Ah receptor-mediated response (i.e., CYP1A1 mRNA and EROD) of the cells upon exposure to a number of known Ah receptor agonists, including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzothiophene, benzo[a]pyrene, and beta-naphthaflavone. TCDD induced CYP1A1 mRNA and EROD was in a close positive correlation (r=0.98). For the screening of dioxin-like compounds, breast milk samples collected during lactation weeks 3-5 were used. One hundred (from Hong Kong) and 48 (from Guangzhou) breast milk samples were assayed, of which 65% and 68% of the samples, respectively, showed detectable dioxin-like activities using the H4IIE cell EROD screening method. For sixty-five samples from Hong Kong the mean EROD-TEQ values ranged from 58.1 to 96.5 pg/g of milk fat for those aged 21-36 years while 32 samples from Guangzhou had mean values of 98.8-202.1 pg/g of milk fat. In comparisons of the EROD-TEQ values for different age groups from both cities, there were no significant differences (P<0.05). However, the mean and median EROD-TEQ values of the Guangzhou population were in general higher than those of the Hong Kong population. The results of the present study indicate that it is feasible to use the H4IIE cell-line as a model for screening dioxin-like compounds in human breast milk. In addition, the method is rapid and cost-effective, particularly for a routine and high-throughput sample screening analysis, compared to the costly and time-intensive chemical analytical techniques.