The UK Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COC) and the related Committee on Mutagenicity provided advice on 1,3-butadiene in 1992. This followed detailed consideration of the available mutagenicity, animal carcinogenicity and epidemiology data plus information on toxicokinetics. They concluded that 1,3-butadiene was an in vivo mutagen, a potent genotoxic animal carcinogen and should be regarded as a probable human carcinogen. The Department of Health is not aware of more recent data warranting reconsideration of these conclusions. General advice on setting air quality standards for carcinogenic air pollutants was given by the COC. Although the prudent assumption of the absence of any safe level for genotoxic carcinogens was preferred, a pragmatic approach based essentially on assessment of the exposure at which no increased risk would be detected, plus a safety factor, was considered reasonable for compounds like butadiene where exposure cannot be totally avoided. This approach, plus recognition that it is unadvisable to allow ambient levels of genotoxic carcinogens to rise, is used in the UK. The procedure by which the Department of Environment's Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards recommended a value of 1 ppb for butadiene based on these principles is described.