Quinones are known producers of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that may be toxic in natural aquatic environments. In this study, the effects of parent quinones and their photodegradation products on bacterial growth were determined, and photochemical ROS formation rates were measured. Using 3H-leucine incorporation to measure growth of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa and natural seawater bacterioplankton, growth inhibition was observed when samples were exposed to dichlone, chloranil and sodium anthraquinone-2-sulfonate (AQ2S). For seawater, compared with other quinones tested, dichlone showed the greatest toxicity in the dark, and AQ2S toxicity was greatest during simultaneous exposure to sunlight. Photodegraded chloranil and dichlone showed decreased toxicity compared with nonirradiated samples. For P. aeruginosa, AQ2S and its photodegradation products showed the greatest toxicity during simultaneous exposure to sunlight. Chloranil photodegradation products showed reduced toxicity compared with the parent compound during simultaneous exposure to sunlight. Dichlone was the only compound to show any toxicity to P. aeruginosa in the dark, and its photodegradation products were more toxic than the parent compound. Based on the results of dark and light controlled experiments measuring bacterial growth and estimated ROS production rates, ROS alone does not account for relative differences in toxicity between these quinones.