Cadmium is an important toxic environmental heavy metal. Generally, occupational and environmental exposures to cadmium result from heavy metal mining, metallurgy and industrial use and the manufacturing of nickel-cadmium batteries, pigments and plastic stabilizers. Cadmium induces oxidative stress and alters the antioxidant system, resulting in oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation. The effect of naringin, a grapefruit flavonone, on cadmium-induced genomic damage was studied by using an in vitro system to test for chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchanges. Cadmium significantly increased the total chromosomal aberrations in human lymphocytes at concentrations of 20 and 40 mu M, and although naringin alone did not induce any chromosomal aberrations, it decreased those induced by cadmium. The mitotic index was not affected by either cadmium or naringin. Cadmium also induced a significant number of sister chromatid exchanges, but naringin alone did not induce sister chromatid exchanges and was unable to decrease the frequency of sister chromatid exchanges induced by cadmium. Replicative index analysis revealed that naringin and cadmium did not significantly alter replicative index frequencies. In this study, we show that plant-based flavonoids, such as naringin, may reduce the genomic damage induced by cadmium and may protect the cellular environments from free radical damage by its possible antioxidative potential.