Prenatal pesticide exposures may adversely affect children's health. However, exposure and health research is hampered by the lack of reliable fetal exposure data. No studies have been published that report measurements of commonly used nonpersistent pesticides in human amniotic fluid, although recent studies of pesticides in urine from pregnant women and in meconium indicate that fetuses are exposed to these chemicals. Amniotic fluid collected during amniocentesis is the only medium available to characterize direct fetal exposures early in pregnancy (approximately 18 weeks of gestation). As a first step in validating this exposure biomarker, we collected 100 amniotic fluid samples slated for disposal and evaluated analytical methods to measure organophosphate and carbamate pesticides and metabolites, synthetic pyrethroid metabolites, herbicides, and chlorinated phenolic compounds. The following six phenols were detected (detection frequency): 1- and 2-naphthol (70%), 2,5-dichlorophenol (55%), carbofuranphenol (5%), ortho-phenylphenol (30%), and pentachlorophenol (15%), with geometric mean concentrations of 0.72, 0.39, 0.12, 0.13, and 0.23 microg/L, respectively, for positive values. The organophosphate metabolites diethylphosphate and dimethylphosphate were detected in two (10%) samples, and dimethylthiophosphate was detected in one (5%) sample, with geometric mean concentrations of 0.31, 0.32, and 0.43 microg/L, respectively, for positive values. These levels are low compared with levels reported in urine, blood, and meconium in other studies, but indicate direct exposures to the young fetus, possibly during critical periods of development. Results of this pilot study suggest that amniotic fluid offers a unique opportunity to investigate fetal exposures and health risks.