Chronic alcohol feeding causes microsomal induction including increased generation of hydroxyl radicals. Ethanol induced liver injury may be mediated by lipid peroxidation for which hydroxyl radicals have been proposed as major mediators. Ethanol promotes lipid peroxidation when given acutely but also may serve as a hydroxyl radical scavenger. Therefore, we studied the acute and chronic effects of alcohol on microsomal lipid peroxidation and hydroxyl radical generation. Chronic alcohol feeding in rats increased microsomal generation of hydroxyl radicals but lipid peroxidation of endogenous lipid was inversely related to hydroxyl radical generation. Ethanol (50mM) had a slight inhibitory effect on hydroxyl radical production in perxidizing microsomes, no effect on endogenous lipid peroxidation and enhanced the lysis of RBCs added as targets of peroxidation. Enhanced microsomal generation of hydroxyl radicals following chronic alcohol feeding is not an important mediator of lipid peroxidation.