Single-strand breaks were observed in rat lung and kidney after acute treatment of animals with CdCl2 (4 mg/kg body weight) injected intraperitoneally and NiCl2 (44.4 mg/kg body weight) injected subcutaneously. In the rat liver, no single-strand breakage was evident with those doses in single and combined metal treatments. The most susceptible tissue in rats to cadmium or nickel chloride treatment was the lung tissue. The single-strand breaks were higher in cadmium treatment than in nickel treatment in the rat lung. Also the response to cadmium treatment was obtained earlier than nickel. Rat kidney was also responsive to cadmium treatment. However, the response, although statistically significant, was much lower than the one obtained in rat lung. The combined treatment, which was done by administrating cadmium prior to nickel administration, reduced the number of single-strand breaks significantly and reversed them to control values in rat lung and kidney. This study confirms that cadmium and nickel create single-strand breaks when administered alone in the rat lung. This effect, which was seen in the single metal treatments, was reduced in the combined treatments. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.