Lead exposure was investigated among 73 Mexican radiator repair workers (RRWs), 12 members of their family (4 children and 8 wives), and 36 working controls. RRWs were employed at 4 radiator repair shops in Mexico City and 27 shops in Cuernavaca and surrounding areas. Exposure was assessed directly through the use of personal air sampling and hand wipe samples. In addition, industrial hygiene inspections were performed and detailed questionnaires were administered. Blood lead levels were measured by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS). The mean (SD) values for blood lead of the RRWs, 35.5 (13.5) microg/dl, was significantly greater than the same values for the working controls, 13.6 (8.7) microg/dl; P < 001. After excluding a single outlier (247 microg/m(3)), air lead levels ranged from 0 to 99 microg/m(3) with a mean (SD) value of 19 (23) microg/m(3) (median = 7.9 microg/m(3)). In a final multivariate regression model of elevated blood lead levels, the strongest predictors were smoking (vs. non-smoking), the number of radiators repaired per day on average, and the use (vs. non-use) of a uniform while at work, which were associated with blood lead elevations of 11.4 microg/dl, 1.95 microg/dl/radiator/day, and 16.4 microg/dl, respectively (all P <.05). Uniform use was probably a risk factor because they were not laundered regularly and consequently served as reservoir of contamination on which RRWs frequently wiped their hands. Lead exposure is a significant problem of radiator repair work, a small industry that is abundant in Mexico and other developing countries.