During the period 1981-1985, 1306 patients with acute poisoning were admitted to Ga-Rankuwa Hospital. Of these 60% were males and 40% females. The majority (80%) were children aged 10 years or less. Sixty patients (4.6%) died. Most poisonings were accidental and only 4.0% were due to deliberate self-poisoning. The most important causes of acute poisoning were kerosene (59%) and traditional medicines (15.8%). The major causes of mortality were traditional medicines responsible for 51.7% and kerosene responsible for 26.7% of the deaths that occurred. The prevention and treatment of kerosene poisoning and poisoning by traditional medicines merits high priority in the health care of the indigenous population of South Africa.