We present a validation study of a quantitative retrospective exposure assessment method used in a follow-up study of workers exposed to benzene. Assessment of exposure to benzene was carried out in 672 factories in 12 cities in China. Historical exposure data were collected for 3179 unique job titles. The basic unit for exposure assessment was a factory/work unit/job title combination over seven periods between 1949 and 1987. A total of 18,435 exposure estimates was developed, using all available historical information, including 8477 monitoring data. Overall, 38% of the estimates were based on benzene monitoring data. The highest time-weighted average exposures were observed for the rubber industry (30.7 ppm) and for rubber glue applicators (52.6 ppm). Because of its recognized link with benzene exposure, the association between a clinical diagnosis of benzene poisoning and benzene exposure was evaluated to validate the assessment method that we used in the cohort study. Our confidence in the assessment method is supported by the observation of a strong positive trend between benzene poisoning and various measures, especially recent intensity of exposure to benzene.