In response to concerns regarding possible DNA damage by far ultraviolet radiation during excimer laser corneal surgery, the mutagenic potential of an argon fluoride excimer laser (193 nm) on BALB/3T3 mouse fibroblasts grown in tissue culture was investigated. The cumulative incidence of anaplastic transformation after subablative radiant exposures from 3.5 mJ/cm2/pulse to 13.4 mJ/cm2/pulse was 3.6% of all cell cultures. The incidence of anaplastic transformation in nonirradiated controls was 4.2%. Transformation after exposure to x-ray radiation (60.9 rad) was 98.8%. The difference between the incidence of transformation of nonirradiated controls or excimer-treated cultures compared with x-ray radiation-treated cells was significant P less than 0.0001 (chi square test). In this standard cell line, 193-nm laser energy does not appear to have substantial mutagenic potential.