The study of placental xenobiotic metabolism is important for the determination of foetal exposure to environmental chemicals as placental metabolism influences the nature of chemicals reaching the foetus from its mother's blood. Arylamine N-acetyltransferases are drug metabolizing enzymes which N-acetylate hydrazines and arylamines, including carcinogenic arylamines and sulphonamide drugs. The two human arylamine N-acetyltransferase isoenzymes, NAT1 and NAT2, are encoded at multi-allelic loci. Here, we have determined N-acetyltransferase (NAT) activity in term placentas from normal, uncomplicated pregnancies. Both NAT1 and NAT2 enzyme activities were detectable. Placental NAT1 activity was at least 1000 fold greater than NAT2 activity. There was a 6 fold inter-placental variation in NAT1 activity. Mean placental NAT1 specific activity was 1.42 nmoles para-aminobenzoic acid N-acetylated.min-1.mg protein-1, which is comparable to NAT1 specific activities which have been measured in adult tissues. The NAT1, but not the NAT2, protein was detectable in placentas by Western blotting. Maternal and foetal NAT genotypes were determined from placenta, using placental blood clots and cord blood respectively, allowing NAT haplotype determination. There appeared to be linkage disequilbrium between NAT1* and NAT2* alleles such that the combination NAT1*10/NAT2*4 was found 3.5 times more frequently than would be expected.