Respirable quartz has recently been classified as a human carcinogen. Although, studies with quartz using naked DNA as a target suggest that formation of oxyradicals by particles may play a role in the DNA-damaging properties of quartz, it is not known whether this pathway is important for DNA damage in the target cells for quartz carcinoggenesis, i.e. alveolar epithelial cells. Therefore, we determined in vitro DNA damage by DQ12 quartz particles in rat and human and alveolar epithelial cells (RLE, A549) using the single cell gel electrophoresis/comet assay. The radical generation capacity of quartz was analysed by electron spin resonance (ESR) and by immunocytochemical analysis of the hydroxyl radical-specific DNA lesion 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) in the epithelial cells.