Blood samples were collected twice (in 1993 and 1994) from 19 workers exposed to 1,3-butadiene and 19 matched controls. Three exposed and three control subjects were the same in 1993 and 1994. Personal passive dosimetry was performed in 1993 and twice in 1994 on the day preceding blood sampling. Mean exposure level in 1994 was 1.76 +/- 4.20 ppm (S.D.) and individual exposure levels ranged between 0.012 ppm (detection limit) and 19.77 ppm. Using the clonal assay, geometric mean of hprt mutant frequencies adjusted for cloning efficiency, age and smoking were, respectively, 7.85 (+/- 7.09) x 10(-6) and 10.14 (+/- 9.16) x 10(-6) in pooled (1993 plus 1994) exposed and control subjects. The difference was not statistically significant indicating that 1,3-butadiene did not induce a detectable increase in mutations at the hprt locus. A similar result was obtained for the 1994 subjects alone. There was no difference between adjusted geometric mean mutant frequencies of exposed and unexposed non-smokers or between exposed and unexposed smokers. Analysis of chromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes from 1994 subjects indicated that the percentage of aberrant cells was significantly enhanced in exposed subjects. In 1993 (data not shown), it was impossible to demonstrate a significant increase of aberrant cells in subjects exposed to 1,3-butadiene. Frequencies of micronuclei in cytochalasin-B blocked binucleate lymphocytes in exposed and unexposed 1994 subjects were not significantly different. This was also the case for earlier samples analyzed in the same plant. Using the comet assay for 1994 subjects, no statistically significant difference was found between the whole group of exposed and unexposed subjects. This was true for both the comet tail length and the percentage of DNA in the tail. In exposed smokers, however, the comet tail length was significantly longer than in unexposed smokers. Unexpectedly, in unexposed smokers the tail length was significantly shorter than in unexposed non-smokers. It was also unexpected that the percentage of DNA in the comet tail was significantly lower in exposed non-smokers than in unexposed non-smokers.