This study was undertaken to evaluate potential inhalation hazards to operating room personnel after irradiation of tumors with the carbon dioxide laser. Cellular debris was analyzed for viability using labeled nucleotides and labeled glucose. In this way the plume was investigated for the presence of material with oncogenic potential. Most surgeons who have ablated venereal warts or certain tumors with the carbon dioxide laser have worried about possible hazards of inhaling the vapor that is produced as a result of their work. We utilized three methods to determine whether viable particles exist in the laser plume. Fortunately, it is most comforting that the metabolic studies, DNA and RNA studies and cytologic studies seem to indicate that the plume is biologically inactive.