A sensitive and specific method for the determination of trans,trans-muconic acid (t,t-MA) in urine is described. After clean-up on an anion-exchange cartridge, t,t-MA was derivatized with BF3-methanol to the dimethyl ester and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), with 2-bromohexanoic acid as an internal standard. The limit of detection was 0.01 mg/l, the coefficient of variation for duplicate analysis in a series of urine samples (n = 50) was 2.6% and the recovery rate ranged from 93.3 to 106.3%. The between-day and within-day precision for the analysis were 7.4 and 14.6%, respectively. The method was applied to the determination of t,t-MA in urine samples from smokers and non-smokers. The mean concentration of t,t-MA in urine of 10 smokers was 0.09 +/- 0.04 mg/g creatinine and was significantly (p = 0.012) higher than that found in urine of 10 non-smokers (0.05 +/- 0.02 mg/g creatinine). In contrast to the results obtained with the commonly used high-performance liquid chromatographic ultraviolet detection (HPLC-UV) methods, no interference between t,t-MA and other urinary compounds was found. This GC-MS method is both specific and sensitive for biomonitoring of low environmental benzene exposure.