Clastogenic properties of the food additive citric acid, commonly used as an antioxidant, were analysed in human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Citric acid induced a significant increase of chromosomal aberrations (CAs) at all the concentrations and treatment periods tested. Citric acid significantly decreased mitotic index (MI) at 100 and 200 mu g ml(-1) concentrations at 24 h, and in all concentrations at 48 h. However, it did not decrease the replication index (RI) significantly. Citric acid also significantly increased sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) at 100 and 200 mu g ml(-1) concentrations at 24 h, and in all concentrations at 48 h. This chemical significantly increased the micronuclei frequency (MN) compared to the negative control. It also decreased the cytokinesis-block proliferation index (CBPI), but this result was not statistically significant.