Within the framework of an European Commission-funded project, groups of industrial workers exposed to heavy metals (cadmium, mercury and lead) or solvents were studied together with corresponding control groups. Eighty-one measurements were carried out on urine and serum samples and the scientific results together with individual questionnaire information were entered into a central database. Data obtained was assessed centrally and individually in subsidiary studies. The measurable contributions were assessed either singly or in combination, of smoking, gender, metal exposure and site, to nephrotoxicity. The potential value of each test as an indicator of nephrotoxicity was then assessed on the basis of sensitivity and specificity. A number of new tests including prostaglandins and for extracellular matrix components were investigated as well as established tests for renal damage and dysfunction. The data obtained from this comprehensive study emphasises the value of noninvasive biomarkers for the early detection of nephrotoxicity due to environmental toxins. The urinary profile varied with the type of environmental/occupational toxin. By careful selection of a small panel of markers they can be used to indicate the presence of renal damage, the principal region affected, and to monitor the progress of disease and damage. Biomarkers were also used to confirm and tentatively establish safe exposure levels to nephrotoxins.