The frequency of micronuclei (MN) and cytology of respiratory nasal mucosa cells were evaluated in 15 non-smokers exposed to formaldehyde in a plywood factory. Each subject was paired with a control matched for age and sex. Mean levels of exposure to formaldehyde ranged from about 0.1 mg/m3 in the sawmill and shearing-press departments to 0.39 mg/m3 in the warehouse area. There was a contemporary exposure to low levels of wood dust (inspirable mass ranged from 0.23 mg/m3 in the warehouse to 0.73 mg/m3 during sawing operations). Nasal respiratory cell samples were collected by an otorhinolaryngologist near the inner turbinate using a brush for endocervical cytology. After staining (Feulgen plus Fast Green and Papanicolaou's method for MN analysis and cytology, respectively), about 6000 cells were screened for micronuclei and scored in parallel for cytology according to a histopathological scale. A higher frequency of micronucleated cells was observed in the exposed group than in the controls (0.90 +/- 0.47 vs. 0.25 +/- 0.22, Mann-Whitney U test: p less than 0.01). Cytological examination indicated chronic phlogosis in the nasal respiratory mucosa of plywood factory workers, with a high frequency of squamous metaplasia cells (mean score 2.3 +/- 0.5 vs. 1.6 +/- 0.5 in the control group, Mann-Whitney U test: p less than 0.01).