The incubation of asbestos with DNA in presence of peroxides augmented DNA damage several fold as compared to the damage caused by individual treatments. Asbestos in presence of hydrogen peroxide causes DNA double strand breaks, damage to its deoxyribose sugar moiety and enhanced DNA fidelity. However, only DNA double strand breaks and enhanced DNA fidelity could be recorded in presence of organic hydroperoxide/peroxide but no DNA sugar damage could be observed. Further, the extent of DNA damage could be correlated to the carcinogenic potential of asbestos fibre. Crocidolite, the most carcinogenic variety of asbestos, produces maximum damage to DNA in presence of both hydrogen peroxide and organic hydroperoxide/peroxide while chrysolite which is only a co-carcinogen produces significantly less DNA damage. The observed differences in DNA damage by hydrogen peroxide and organic hydroperoxide/peroxide have been ascribed to the differential reactivity of DNA with hydroxyl and alkoxy/aryloxy free radicals produced respectively from these inorganic and organic peroxides. © 1994 Academic Press. All rights reserved.