The results of efforts to identify and quantify macromolecular adducts of ethylene oxide (ETO), to determine the source and significance of background levels of these adducts, and to generate molecular dosimetry data on these adducts are reviewed. A time-course study was conducted to investigate the formation and persistence of 7-(2-hydroxyethyl)guanine (7-HEG; Fig. 1) in various tissues of rats exposed to ETO by inhalation, providing information necessary for designing investigations on the molecular dosimetry of adducts of ETO. Male F344 rats were exposed 6 h/day for up to 4 weeks (5 days/wk) to 300 ppm ETO by inhalation. Another set of rats was exposed for 4 weeks to 300 ppm ETO, and then killed 1-10 days after cessation of exposures. DNA samples from control and treated rats were analyzed for 7-HEG using neutral thermal hydrolysis, HPLC separation, and fluorescence detection. The adduct was detectable in all tissues of treated rats following 1 day of ETO exposure and increased approximately linearly for 3-5 days before the rate of increase began to level off. Concentrations of 7-HEG were greatest in brain, but the extent of formation was similar in all tissues studied. The adduct disappeared slowly from DNA, with an apparent half-life of approx. 7 days. The shape of the formation curve and the in vivo half-life indicate that 7-HEG will approach steady-state concentrations in rat DNA by 28 days of ETO exposure. The similarity in 7-HEG formation in target and nontarget tissues indicates that the tissue specificity for tumor induction is due to factors in addition to DNA-adduct formation.