Abstract The biological effects of 2,4-pentadiene-1-ol (CH 2CHCHCHCH 2OH) the starting monomer in the preparation of a biocompatible polymer were studied. The experiments in rats revealed both a high local (oedema, necrosis) and systemic toxicity. Within 5–10 min after dermal application of 0.2 ml the compound evoked intensive hyperaemia of acral parts (ears, snout, paws) and induced severe breathing difficulties which led to death in half of the animals after a single administration. The most evident macroscopic and microscopic pathological changes were found in the place of application and in the lungs (haemorrhage in alveolae). Both clinical and histological findings indicated that the toxicity is due to an increased permeability of capillaries.