The selenium status of workers handling aromatic nitro-amino (ANA) compounds was evaluated by measurement of their blood and urinary selenium concentrations and blood glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activities. Forty-seven healthy Japanese male workers (42.7 +/- 12.1 yr) handling ANA compounds routinely in a chemical factory were studied as exposed workers, and 107 nonindustrial healthy Japanese males (39.3 +/- 10.0 yr) in the same region served as a control group. Urinary diazoreaction-positive metabolites and methemoglobin, both of which have been used as indices of exposure to ANA compounds, were significantly elevated in the exposed workers. Both plasma and erythrocyte selenium in the exposed workers showed 20% lower values compared to the control group. GSH-Px activities in plasma and erythrocytes were also significantly decreased in the exposed workers, but urinary selenium excretions were similar between the two groups. Questionnaire information obtained from each subject regarding intake habits of selenium-rich foods (bread, eggs, meat, and fish) indicated that the average dietary selenium intake was similar for the control group and the exposed workers. These results indicate that (1) the workers handling ANA compounds were surely exposed to these chemicals; (2) their selenium status was lower than that of the nonindustrial controls; and (3) the low selenium status was not associated with any dietary factor.