The assessment of health risk due to environmental contaminants depends upon accurate estimates of the distribution of population exposures. Exposure assessment, in turn, requires information on the time people spend in micro-environments and their activities during periods of exposure. This paper describes preliminary results including study methodology and population sampled in a large Canadian survey of time-activity patterns. A 24-hour diary recall survey was performed in 2381 households (representing a 65% response rate) to describe in detail the timing, location and activity pattern of one household member (the adult or child with the next birthday). Four cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Saint John, NB) and their suburbs were sampled by random-digit dialling over a nine-month period in 1994/1995. Supplemental questionnaires inquiring about sociodemographic information, house and household characteristics and potential exposure to toxins in the air and water were also administered. In general, the results show that respondents spend the majority of their time indoors (88.6%) with smaller proportions of time outdoors (6.1%) and in vehicles (5.3%). Children under the age of 12 spend more time both indoors and outdoors and less time in transit than do adults. The data from this study will be used to define more accurately the exposure of Canadians to a variety of toxins in exposure assessment models and to improve upon the accuracy of risk assessment for a variety of acute and chronic health effects known or suspected to be related to environmental exposures.