We studied the protective effect of monoterpenes myrcene, eucalyptol and linalool against t-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BOOH) induced genotoxicity in reverse mutation assay with Escherichia coli WP2 IC185 strain and its oxyR mutant IC202, and with the comet assay in human hepatoma HepG2 and human B lymphoid NC-NC cells. The monoterpenes were tested in concentration ranges 0.05-1.5 mg/plate and 0.01-1.0 microg/ml in bacteria and mammalian cells, respectively. Suppression of t-BOOH induced mutagenesis was detected only in IC202 strain, and correlated with the observed inhibition of lipid peroxidation by the three monoterpenes. Linalool and myrcene strongly suppressed t-BOOH induced mutagenesis. Eucalyptol, in addition to moderate suppression of t-BOOH induced mutagenesis, suppressed also spontaneous mutagenesis. In NC-NC cells linalool and myrcene reduced t-BOOH induced DNA damage by about 50% at 0.01 microg/ml, while eucalyptol was less efficient (about 50% reduction at 1.0 microg/ml). In HepG2 cells linalool and eucalyptol reduced DNA damage by 30% and 40%, respectively, while myrcene was ineffective. The repair of t-BOOH induced DNA damage, studied in HepG2 cells, was not affected by monoterpenes. The results indicate that linalool, eucalyptol and myrcene have substantial protective effect against oxidant induced genotoxicity, which is predominately mediated by their radical scavenging activity.