In this study, the genotoxic effects of sodium benzoate (SB) and potassium benzoate (PB) were investigated in cultured human peripheral lymphocytes using chromosomal aberrations (CA), sister chromatid exchange (SCE), and micronuclei (MN). The level of nuclear DNA damage of SB and PB were also evaluated using the comet assay. The lymphocytes were incubated with different concentrations of SB (6.25, 12.5, 25, 50, and 100. μg/ml) and PB (62.5, 125, 250, 500, and 1000. μg/ml). A significant increase was observed in CA, SCE, and MN, in almost all treatments compared to negative controls. SB and PB significantly decreased the mitotic index (MI) in all the treatments, compared to the negative controls. However, neither of the additives affected the replication index (RI). Although SB significantly increased DNA damage, PB did not cause a significant increase in DNA damage. The present results indicate that SB and PB are clastogenic, mutagenic and cytotoxic to human lymphocytes in vitro. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.