The strong and long-lasting hematotoxic effect after benzene exposure in vivo (300 ppm, 6 hr/day, 5 days/week for 2 weeks) was assessed in mice with bone marrow cells grown in long-term bone marrow culture (LTBMC). Bone marrow cultures initiated 1 day after the last benzene exposure did not produce adequate numbers of hematopoietic cells over 3 weeks, and, in most cases, no erythroid or myeloid clonogenic cells could be recovered. The adherent cell layer of these cultures had a lowered capacity for supporting in vitro hematopoiesis after the second seeding with normal bone marrow cells compared with control cultures. Two weeks after the last benzene exposure, body weight, hematocrit, bone marrow cellularity, and committed hematopoietic progenitor content (BFU-E and CFU-GM) were regenerated to normal or subnormal values, whereas hematopoiesis in LTBMC was very poor. Over 8 weeks, little or no significant committed progenitor production was observed. Treatment of mice exposed to benzene with hemin (three doses of 3 micrograms/g bw i.v. over 2 weeks for a total dose of 9 micrograms/g) partially overcame the toxic effect of benzene on the hematopoietic system as measured by the LTBMC method. Cultures from mice treated with hemin had a modest recovery of BFU-E and CFU-GM clonogenic potential after 5 to 6 weeks in LTBMC. In contrast, little or no recovery was obtained for the adherent cell layer clonogenic capacity, even after hemin treatment. These results clearly indicate a strong, long-lasting toxic effect on the bone marrow stroma and a limited recovery of hematopoietic potential by clonogenic cells of the nonadherent population after in vivo hemin treatment.