In the spring and summer of 2001, 47 fathers, 48 mothers and 117 children of Iowa farm and non-farm households were recruited to participate in a study investigating take-home pesticide exposure. On two occasions approximately 1 month apart, urine samples from each participant and dust samples from various rooms were collected from each household and were analyzed for atrazine, metolachlor, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos or their metabolites. The adjusted geometric mean (GM) level of the urine metabolite of atrazine was significantly higher in fathers, mothers and children from farm households compared with those from non-farm households (P < or = 0.0001). Urine metabolites of chlorpyrifos were significantly higher in farm fathers (P = 0.02) and marginally higher in farm mothers (P = 0.05) when compared with non-farm fathers and mothers, but metolachlor and glyphosate levels were similar between the two groups. GM levels of the urinary metabolites for chlorpyrifos, metolachlor and glyphosate were not significantly different between farm children and non-farm children. Farm children had significantly higher urinary atrazine and chlorpyrifos levels (P = 0.03 and P = 0.03 respectively) when these pesticides were applied by their fathers prior to sample collection than those of farm children where these pesticides were not recently applied. Urinary metabolite concentration was positively associated with pesticide dust concentration in the homes for all pesticides except atrazine in farm mothers; however, the associations were generally not significant. There were generally good correlations for urinary metabolite levels among members of the same family.