Ozone, a strong oxidant present in summer smog, is thought to primarily react with antioxidant molecules found in the epithelial lining fluid of the respiratory tract. In humans, as much as 40% of inhaled ozone can be removed in the nasal cavity where the major extracellular antioxidant has been identified as uric acid. The present study was undertaken to examine urate/oxidant interactions in human nasal lavage fluid following in vitro exposure to ozone at concentrations relevant to the U.K. Lavage fluid was collected from 8 volunteers using a modified Foley catheter which permits prolonged contact of isotonic saline with the anterior nasal cavity. Nasal lavage samples in multiwell plates were exposed to ozone at concentrations of 50, 100 and 250 ppb. Samples were removed at intervals from 15 to 240 min following exposure and assayed for uric acid depletion. Uric acid concentrations in the nasal lavage were found to fall from 8.52 (time zero) to 3.99 microM, 0.05 and 0.07 microM after 240 min at 50, 100 and 250 ppb ozone respectively. At a non-environmentally relevant ozone concentration of 1000 ppb, uric acid was completely depleted after 60 min. Regression analysis showed a linear correlation between rate of loss of urate and ozone concentration (R2 = 0.97). A novel, non-invasive technique is described to investigate antioxidant compromise and its importance in individual subjects. We conclude that uric acid in nasal lavage samples is scavenged by ozone in a dose and time dependent manner.