The genotoxic effects of 2,4-D and its commercial derivative 2,4-D DMA were studied by measuring sister chromatid exchange (SCE), cell-cycle progression and mitotic index in human whole blood (WBC) and plasma leukocyte cultures (PLC). Concentrations of 10, 25, 50 and 100 μg herbicide/ml were used during 72 h. In WBC, a significant increase in SCE frequency was observed within the 10–50 μg 2,4-D/ml and 25–100 μg 2,4-D DMA/ml dose range. Contrarily, in PLC, none of the concentrations employed affected the SCEs frequency. A significant delay in cell proliferation was observed in WBC after treatments with 25 and 50 μg 2,4-D/ml and 50 and 100 μg 2,4-D DMA/ml. In PLC, only 100.0 μg 2,4-D/ml altered cell-cycle progression. For both chemicals, a progressive dose-related inhibition of mitotic activity was observed. The results demonstrated that the presence of erythrocytes in the culture system modulated the DNA and cellular damage inflicted by 2,4-D and 2,4-D DMA into human lymphocytes in vitro as well as both 2,4-D and 2,4-D DMA were more potent genotoxic agents in the presence of human red cells.