Benzidine (4,4'-diaminobiphenyl) is a known human carcinogen; exposure to this substance resulted in an epidemic of bladder cancer among workers in the dye industry in Europe and North America. The chemical or enzymatic oxidation of benzidine proceeds via a racial cation detectable by electron spin resonance. Peroxidase-catalyzed oxidation of benzidine generates reactive electrophiles which readily form adducts with phenol and thiol compounds. The structures of these novel metabolites are described. Peroxidases, including prostaglandin synthase, catalyze benzidine binding to protein and nucleic acid; the nature of the resulting adducts is unknown. The relevance of these processes to benzidine carcinogenesis in vivo is the subject of research and debate. A central question remains: is benzidine activated in extra-hepatic target tissues such as bladder epithelium, or transported to these tissues following hepatic oxidative metabolism?