Data about non-dietary exposure to different chemical classes of pesticides are scarce, especially in France. Our objective was to assess residential pesticide exposure of non-occupationally exposed adults, and to compare it with occupational exposure of subjects working indoors. Twenty unexposed persons, five gardeners, seven florists and nine veterinary workers living in Paris area were recruited. Nineteen residences, two greenhouses, three florist shops and three veterinary departments were then sampled. Thirty-eight insecticides, herbicides and fungicides were measured in indoor air with an air sampler for 24 h, and on hands by wiping them with isopropanol-wetted swabs. After extraction, samples were analysed by gas and high-performance liquid chromatography. Seventeen different pesticides were detected at least once in indoor air and twenty-one on the hands. An average of 4.2+/-1.7 different pesticides was detected per indoor air sample. The organochlorines lindane, alpha-endosulfan and alpha-HCH were the most frequently detected compounds, in 97%, 69% and 38% of the samples, respectively. The organophosphates dichlorvos and fenthion, the carbamate propoxur and the herbicides atrazine and alachlor were detected in more than 20% of the air samples. Indoor air concentrations were often low, but could reach 200-300 ng/m(3) in residences for atrazine and propoxur. Propoxur levels significantly differed between the air of veterinary places and other places (Kruskal-Wallis test, p<0.05) and dieldrin levels between residences and workplaces (p<0.05). There was a greater number of pesticides on hands than in air, with an average of 6.3+/-3.3 different pesticides detected per sample, the most frequently detected being malathion, lindane and trifluralin, in more than 60% of the subjects. Maximal levels (up to 1000-3000 ng/hands) were observed either in the general population or in workers, depending on the pesticide. However, no significant difference was observed between workers and general population handwipe pesticide levels. As expected, gardeners were exposed to pesticides sprayed in greenhouses. Florists and veterinary workers, whose pesticide exposure had not been described until now, were also indirectly exposed to pesticides used for former pest control operations. Overall, general population was exposed to more various pesticides and at levels sometimes higher than in occupational places. The most frequent pesticides in residences were not the same as in US studies but levels were similar. These preliminary results need to be confirmed in a greater number of residences from different parts of the country, in order to better assess pesticide exposure of the general population and its influencing factors.