It has been suggested that taurine, hypotaurine and their metabolic precursors (cysteic acid, cysteamine and cysteinesulphinic acid) might act as antioxidants in vivo. The rates of their reactions with the biologically important oxidants hydroxyl radical (.OH), superoxide radical (O2.-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and hypochlorous acid (HOCl) were studied. Their ability to inhibit iron-ion-dependent formation of .OH from H2O2 by chelating iron ions was also tested. Taurine does not react rapidly with O2.-, H2O2 or .OH, and the product of its reaction with HOCl is still sufficiently oxidizing to inactivate alpha 1-antiproteinase. Thus it seems unlikely that taurine functions as an antioxidant in vivo. Cysteic acid is also poorly reactive to the above oxidizing species. By contrast, hypotaurine is an excellent scavenger of .OH and HOCl and can interfere with iron-ion-dependent formation of .OH, although no reaction with O2.- or H2O2 could be detected within the limits of our assay techniques. Cysteamine is an excellent scavenger of .OH and HOCl; it also reacts with H2O2, but no reaction with O2.- could be measured within the limits of our assay techniques. It is concluded that cysteamine and hypotaurine are far more likely to act as antioxidants in vivo than is taurine, provided that they are present in sufficient concentration at sites of oxidant generation.