The microsomal oxidation of 12 frequently occurring environmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons after incubation with rat-liver microsomes has been studied and their metabolites characterized by means of gas-liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. The method enables the detection and characterisation of phenols, diols, triols, and tetrols as trimethylsilyl ethers beside the original hydrocarbons. Moreover, the induction properties of some carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic hydrocarbons (benz[a]anthracene, pyrene, chrysene, benzo[a]-pyrene, benzo[e]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene) have been studied. Except pyrene and benzo[e]pyrene, all compounds investigated significant but different induction factors. The relevance of the induction for an estimation of the biological effect of environmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is discussed.