Retrospective, quantitative estimates of exposure to 1,3-butadiene, styrene and benzene were developed for a follow-up study of leukemia mortality among 16610 subjects employed at six North American styrene-butadiene rubber manufacturing plants (418846 person-years, 58 leukemia deaths). The estimation procedure entailed identifying work areas within each manufacturing process, historical changes in exposure potential and specific tasks involving exposure, and using mathematical models to calculate job- and time-period-specific average exposures. The resulting estimates were linked with the subjects' work histories to obtain cumulative exposure estimates, which were employed in stratified and Poisson regression analyses of mortality rates. Mantel-Haenszel rate ratios adjusted by race, age, and cumulative styrene exposure increase with cumulative butadiene exposure from 1 in the nonexposed category to 4.5 in the category of 80 ppm-years or more (P = 0.01). The risk pattern is less clear and statistically nonsignificant for styrene exposure. A trend of increasing risk with butadiene exposure is still present after exclusion of the nonexposed category (P = 0.03). A parsimonious interpretation of the findings presented here, in light of previous epidemiologic studies, is that exposure to butadiene in the synthetic rubber industry produces a dose-related increase in the occurrence of leukemia.