Measurement of specific DNA adduct concentrations in target tissues of organisms may provide a key biologic end-point of exposure to environmental carcinogens. Using a general and highly sensitive assay with 32-P-postlabeling, we found that natural populations of freshwater fish species chub, barbel, bream and carp, as well as a marine fish mugil, revealed the presence of four to nine qualitatively similar adducts irrespective of whether they were caught from unpolluted or polluted waters. No statistically significant differences were observed between the adduct levels of fish from the unpolluted waters and those of fish from the polluted waters. A dominant feature of the fish DNA adducts was a species specificity. The finding that a vast majority of DNA modifications in fish are caused by natural factors rather than man-made chemicals offers a basis for a more realistic view in assessing the genotoxic risks in any aquatic environment.