Peripheral blood samples collected from healthy human volunteers were exposed in vitro to 2.45 GHz or 8.2 GHz pulsed-wave radiofrequency (RF) radiation. The net forward power, average power density, mean specific absorption rate, and the temperature maintained during the 2-h exposure of the cells to 2.45 GHz or 8.2 GHz were, respectively, 21 W or 60 W, 5 mW/cm(2) or 10 mW/cm(2), 2.13 W/kg or 20.71 W/kg, and 36.9 +/- 0.1 degrees C or 37.5 +/- 0.2 degrees C. Aliquots of the same blood samples that were either sham-exposed or exposed in vitro to an acute dose of 1.5 Gy gamma radiation were used as unexposed and positive controls, respectively. Cultured lymphocytes were examined to determine the extent of cytogenetic damage assessed from the incidence of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei. Under the conditions used to perform the experiments, the levels of damage in RF-radiation-exposed and sham-exposed lymphocytes were not significantly different. Also, there were no significant differences in the response of unstimulated lymphocytes and lymphocytes stimulated with phytohemagglutinin when exposed to 8.2 GHz RF radiation. In contrast, the positive control cells that had been subjected to gamma irradiation exhibited significantly more damage than RF-radiation- and sham-exposed lymphocytes.