The daily i.t. administration of benzo[a]pyrene (BP) to Sprague-Dawley rats, for 3 consecutive days, did not cause any toxicity or clastogenicity in bone marrow cells, as evaluated by monitoring the ratio of polychromatic to normochromatic erythrocytes and the frequency of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes. However, BP produced a considerable enhancement of binucleated and micronucleated pulmonary alveolar macrophages, as well as a significant increase in polymorphonucleates recovered by bronchoalveolar lavage. These effects were prevented by administering the thiol N-acetylcysteine (NAC) by gavage 5 h before each BP instillation. In addition, the i.t. treatment with BP resulted in the formation of BP diolepoxide (BPDE)-DNA adducts in lungs and liver, as assessed by synchronous fluorescence spectrophotometry, with fluorescence peaks of similar magnitude in the 2 tissues. Pretreatment with NAC by gavage completely prevented BPDE adducts to liver DNA and significantly decreased those to lung DNA.