Autooxidation of polyphenolic metabolites of benzene, such as hydroquinone (HQ), catechol (CT), 1,2,4-benzenetriol (BT) and pyrogallol (PG), produced several kinds of active oxygen species (AOS). BT and PG induced DNA breaks in the absence of metal ions, especially when producing AOS such as H2O2, O2-, HO. or 1 delta gO2. HQ and CT did not result in double-strand DNA breaks, except when ferrous ion was added, indicating the participation of the Fenton reaction. Polyphenolic fractions isolated from green tea (GTP) exerted inhibitory effects on the autooxidation of BT and suppressive effects on H2O2 or HO. generated from phenolic metabolites of benzene in the presence of S9 or an in vivo system. Additionally, although the activities of antioxidant and phase II enzymes were elevated by both GTP and phenolic metabolites of benzene, GTP counteracted the lowering GSH caused by phenolic metabolites of benzene in rat liver. The above results suggest that GTP and phenolic metabolites of benzene are antagonistic in their response to AOS, especially hydroxyl radical.