Benzene is a well-characterized human carcinogen and clastogen still present in both the occupational and general environment. However, the levels of benzene encountered today are, in most cases, relatively low and new methods, more specific and sensitive than classical cytogenetics, are probably needed to assess if current benzene exposures pose a genotoxic risk to human health. Bearing in mind the leukaemogenic action of benzene, blood lymphocytes appear to be a suitable cell system for biomonitoring studies. Buccal epithelium is an alternative source of tissue for monitoring human exposure to inhaled occupational and environmental genotoxicants. New molecular cytogenetic techniques allowing us to specifically study clastogenic or aneugenic events in human cells may provide the additional sensitivity required. In the present study, fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to examine the content of micronuclei (MN) (using the pan-centromeric DNA probe SO-αAllCen) in lymphocytes and buccal cells and to detect numerical abnormalities of chromosome 9 (using a chromesome 9 centromere-specific alphoid DNA probe) in buccal cells from a population occupationally exposed to benzene in an Estonian petrochemical plant. Age-matched Estonian volunteers were used as a control group. Individual benzene exposure levels were estimated to be around 1 p.p.m. (8 h time-weighted average). No increases in the frequency of total MN, MN harbouring whole chromosomes or acentric chromosomal fragments or chromosome 9 numerical abnormalities were detected in relation to benzene exposure in the present study. The lack of positive results was consistent in both buccal cells and lymphocytes, indicating that the benzene exposure levels encountered did not induce detectable clastogenic or aneugenic effects in the exposed workers. Other variables and confounding factors, such as age, smoking or alcohol consumption, did not influence any of the multiple cytogenetic biomarkers analysed.