This review deals with the current state of knowledge on the use of the benchmark dose (BMD) concept in health risk assessment of chemicals. The BMD method is an alternative to the traditional no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL) and has been presented as a methodological improvement in the field of risk assessment. The BMD method has mostly been employed in the USA but is presently given higher attention also in Europe. The review presents a number of arguments in favor of the BMD, relative to the NOAEL. In addition, it gives a detailed overview of the several procedures that have been suggested and applied for BMD analysis, for quantal as well as continuous data. For quantal data the BMD is generally defined as corresponding to an additional or extra risk of 5% or 10%. For continuous endpoints it is suggested that the BMD is defined as corresponding to a percentage change in response relative to background or relative to the dynamic range of response. Under such definitions, a 5% or 10% change can be considered as default. Besides how to define the BMD and its lower bound, the BMDL, the question of how to select the dose-response model to be used in the BMD and BMDL determination is highlighted. Issues of study design and comparison of dose-response curves and BMDs are also covered. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.