Abstract The determination of microgram quantities of chlorine in polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine insecticides by molecular emission cavity analysis is described. Samples either pure, in admixture or mixed with sand were decomposed at 900 ± 50°C in a quartz combustion tube in a humidified oxygen atmosphere. The products of decomposition were bubbled through water or 1% ammonia and 4-μl aliquots of the solution obtained were injected into a stainless steel indium-lined cavity and heated in a nitrogen/hydrogen flame. The chlorine was quantified by comparing the intensity of the InCl emission at 360 nm with that obtained from hydrochloric acid standards. The effect of potential interferences such as alkali and alkaline earth metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, carbon aluminium and iron were studied. Except for the alkali and alkaline earth elements, the recoveries of the compounds burned were not affected. Where the elements interfered, methods for eliminating the interferences are described. The chlorine recovery was usually >90%.