Rats exposed to trichloroethylene, either by gavage or by inhalation, excreted large amounts of formic acid in urine which was accompanied by a change in urinary pH, increased excretion of ammonia, and slight increases in the excretion of calcium. Following a single 6-h exposure to 500 ppm trichloroethylene, the excretion of formic acid was comparable to that seen after a 500 mg/kg dose of formic acid itself, yet the half-life was markedly different. Formate excretion in trichloroethylene treated rats reached a maximum on day 2 and had a half-life of 4-5 days, whereas urinary excretion was complete within 24 h following a single dose of formic acid itself. Formic acid was shown not to be a metabolite of trichloroethylene. When rats were exposed to 250 or 500 ppm trichloroethylene, 6 h/day, for 28 days, the only significant effects were increased formic acid and ammonia excretion, and a change in urinary pH. There was no evidence of morphological liver or kidney damage. Long-term exposure to formic acid is known to cause kidney damage suggesting that excretion of this acid may contribute to the kidney damage seen in the long-term studies with trichloroethylene.