Paint thinner has widespread use in industry. The use of thinner among children as a narcotic agent has become a social and health problem. There is some evidence that organic solvents may express their toxicity by the way of reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced cell damage. ROS has been shown to induce lipid peroxidation in biological membranes. This study examined peroxidative and histopathological changes in the rat lung, during 5 weeks of thinner inhalation. Significant increases were found in lipid peroxidation (MDA + 4-DHA) levels related to the duration of inhalation. As opposed to increases in the lipid peroxidation levels, significant decreases in superoxide dismutase activities and glutathione levels were observed from the third inhalation week to the end of the fifth week. At the beginning of the inhalation slight inflammatory changes, intraalveolar and interstitial extravasation and oedema in lung parenchyma were noted. As the inhalation period extended, chronic inflammatory changes, alveolar epithelial proliferation, collapse, emphysematous changes and interstitial fibrosis in lung were detected. (C) 1998 The Italian Pharmacological Society.