Abstract In an effort to examine the potential of exposure to soot from the 1991 oil fires in the Kuwait desert for inducing genetic effects we studied the in vitro genotoxicity of this material. Air particulates isolated near the Kuwait oil fires were studied using three assays. Dose-dependent increases were observed for both sister chromatid exchanges in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and mutation at the hprt locus in the metabolically competent human lymphoblast cell line AHH-l. Similar magnitudes of response were seen using these two assays when testing a standard air particulate sample which had been isolated from the Washington, DC, area. Using the 32P-postlabeling assay, no increase in DNA adduct formation was observed in AHH-l cells treated with particulates isolated from sampling in Kuwait.