Here, we report the possible in vivo induction DNA damage by exposure to various waste anaesthetic gases such as halothane, nitrous oxide and isoflurane. The alkaline comet assay (single cell gel electrophoresis technique) was carried out on 66 operating room personnel (anaesthetists [doctors]; anaesthesia nurses and anaesthesia unit technicians) currently employed at the Ankara Hospital in Turkey. A significant increase in the number of lymphocytes with DNA migration was observed in operating room personnel as compared to controls. Also, the extent of damage in exposed smokers were significantly higher than exposed nonsmokers. This study supports the existence of an association between DNA damage and occupational exposure to inhalation anaesthetics. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.