Although studies in chemical and biological systems have demonstrated that free radical formation is mediated by Cr(VI), no ESR evidence for the generation of free radicals in vivo has been reported. We have employed an ESR spin-trapping technique to detect an adduct of the spin trap alpha-(4-pyridyl 1-oxide)-N-tert-butylnitrone (4-POBN) in the bile of animals given an intragastric dose of potassium dichromate. In this study, we provide evidence for in vivo radical generation resulting from Cr(VI)-poisoned rats. Upon the administration of Cr(VI) and 4-POBN, the ESR spectrum of the radical adducts present in the bile exhibited hyperfine coupling constants aN = 15.71 G and a beta H = 2.90 G. We suggest that the radical responsible for this 4-POBN adduct is carbon-centered and derived from endogenous lipids. The radical adducts detected in the bile from Cr(VI)-treated rats are proposed to be formed and trapped in the liver and excreted into bile. This is the first report of electron spin resonance evidence for the in vivo generation of free radicals by Cr(VI).