Aldehydes are organic compounds that are widespread in nature. They can be formed endogenously by lipid peroxidation (LPO), carbohydrate or metabolism ascorbate autoxidation, amine oxidases, cytochrome P-450s, or myeloperoxidase-catalyzed metabolic activation. This review compares the reactivity of many aldehydes towards biomolecules particularly macromolecules. Furthermore, it includes not only aldehydes of environmental or occupational concerns but also dietary aldehydes and aldehydes formed endogenously by intermediary metabolism. Drugs that are aldehydes or form reactive aldehyde metabolites that cause side-effect toxicity are also included. The effects of these aldehydes on biological function, their contribution to human diseases, and the role of nucleic acid and protein carbonylation/oxidation in mutagenicity and cytotoxicity mechanisms, respectively, as well as carbonyl signal transduction and gene expression, are reviewed. Aldehyde metabolic activation and detoxication by metabolizing enzymes are also reviewed, as well as the toxicological and anticancer therapeutic effects of metabolizing enzyme inhibitors. The human health risks from clinical and animal research studies are reviewed, including aldehydes as haptens in allergenic hypersensitivity diseases, respiratory allergies, and idiosyncratic drug toxicity; the potential carcinogenic risks of the carbonyl body burden; and the toxic effects of aldehydes in liver disease, embryo toxicity/teratogenicity, diabetes/hypertension, sclerosing peritonitis, cerebral ischemia/neurodegenerative diseases, and other aging-associated diseases.