We evaluated the influence of urine pH on the proportion of urinary benzidine (BZ) and N-acetylbenzidine present in the free, unconjugated state and on exfoliated urothelial cell DNA adduct levels in 32 workers exposed to BZ in India. Postworkshift urine pH was inversely correlated with the proportions of BZ (r = -0.78; P < 0.0001) and N-acetylbenzidine (r = -0.67; P < 0.0001) present as free compounds. Furthermore, the average of each subject's pre- and postworkshift urine pH was negatively associated with the predominant urothelial DNA adduct (P = 0.0037, adjusted for urinary BZ and metabolites), which has been shown to cochromatograph with a N-(3'-phosphodeoxyguanosin-8-yl)-N'-acetylbenzidine adduct standard. Controlling for internal dose, individuals with urine pH < 6 had 10-fold higher DNA adduct levels compared to subjects with urine pH > or = 7. As reported previously, polymorphisms in NAT1, NAT2, and GSTM1 had no impact on DNA adduct levels. This is the first study to demonstrate that urine pH has a strong influence on the presence of free urinary aromatic amine compounds and on urothelial cell DNA adduct levels in exposed humans. Because there is evidence that acidic urine has a similar influence on aromatic amines derived from cigarette smoke, urine pH, which is influenced by diet, may be an important susceptibility factor for bladder cancer caused by tobacco in the general population.