Percutaneous absorption studies were conducted with three single-ring, radiolabeled aromatic solvents (benzene derivatives) using a recently described direct method for studying volatile chemicals in hairless mice. Total absorption, determined from the sums of radioactivity found in the excreta, expired breath and carcass, was 2.1+, 3.4% and 4.7% of the nominal dose for toluene, ethylbenzene and aniline, respectively. Breath decay curves indicated that absorption of toluene and ethylbenzene was complete by 15 min after application and that by this time the excretion rate of aniline exceeded the absorption rate. Evaporation rates were used to derive estimated contact times, and these in turn were used in conjunction with the absorbed doses to estimate percutaneous absorption rates. Equivalent dermal exposures (cm2.min) that would yield body burdens equivalent to those expected following 8-h inhalations at existing US permissible exposure limits during light work were calculated. The data indicate that dermal absorption of these compounds could approach or exceed that from inhalation under some work conditions. Correlations between absorption and various physical properties were evaluated using Spearman's correlation coefficients. The physical properties evaluated included volatility, solubility, octanol/water partition coefficients and melting points. For this limited series of benzene derivatives, two measures of volatility, i.e. vapor pressure and boiling point, were the only physical properties significantly correlated with percutaneous absorption.