Frequencies of sister chromatid exchange (SCE), a measure of genotoxic exposure, were assessed in military troops deployed to Kuwait in 1991. Soldiers completed health questionnaires and had blood collected prior to, during and following deployment to Kuwait. Frequency of spontaneous SCE was determined on blood samples as a measure of mutagenic exposure. Compared to pre-deployment baseline SCE frequency means, levels obtained 2 months into the Kuwaiti deployment were significantly increased (P < 0.001) and persisted for at least 1 month after return to Germany. Outcome was unaffected by known personal SCE effect modifiers including smoking, age and diet. Potential sources of the apparent mutagenic exposure are discussed.