Heparin, in a concentration-dependent manner, inhibited the generation of conjugated dienes and thiobarbituric acid-positive substances when incubated with Fe2+ and gamma-linolenic acid. In the conjugated diene assay, other glycosaminoglycans, on a molar basis calculated with respect to their respective hydrated disaccharide repeat units, were less effective than heparin. Heparin which had been re-N-sulphonated after removal of both N-sulphonates and O-sulphates, and heparin in which iduronate residues had been reduced to idose residues, were largely unaffected in their activity. Removal of both N-sulphonates and O-sulphates greatly reduced the effectiveness of the heparin. Analysis of the effects of heparin fragments generated by heparinase I treatment of heparin showed that depolymerization decreased the effectiveness of the heparin. It is possible that heparins and related strongly acidic polysaccharides may function as endogenous antioxidants, and that sequestration by them, or harmless oxidation by them, of ions such as Fe2+, contributes to their effectiveness.