A retrospective cohort study was conducted in 233 benzene factories and 83 control factories in 12 cities in China. The benzene cohort and the control cohort consisted of 28,460 benzene exposed workers (178,556 person-years in 1972-81) and 28,257 control workers (199,201 person-years). Thirty cases of leukaemia (25 dead and 5 alive) were detected in the former and four cases (all dead) in the latter. The leukaemia mortality rate was 14/100,000 person-years in the benzene cohort and 2/100,000 person-years in the control cohort; the standardized mortality ratio was 5.74 (p less than 0.01 by U test). The average latency of benzene leukaemia was 11.4 years. Most (76.6%) cases of benzene leukaemia were of the acute type. The mortality due to benzene leukaemia was high in organic synthesis plants followed by painting and rubber synthesis industries. The concentration of benzene to which patients with a leukaemia were exposed ranged from 10 to 1000 mg/m3 (mostly from 50 to 500 mg/m3). Of the 25 cases of leukaemia, seven had a history of chronic benzene poisoning before the leukaemia developed.