Reactive oxygen species (ROS) caused by organophosphates may be involved in the toxicity of various pesticides. Therefore, in this study we aimed to investigate how an organophosphate insecticide, phosalone, affects lipid peroxidation (LPO) and the antioxidant defence system in vitro. For this purpose, the effects of various doses of phosalone on LPO and the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and catalase (CAT) in erythrocytes were studied. Each phosalone dose was incubated with a previously prepared erythrocyte sample at +4°C for 0, 60 and 180 min. After incubation, the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and the activities of SOD, GSH-Px and CAT were determined. Phosalone caused an increase in MDA formation and a decrease in the activities of SOD, GSH-Px and CAT. However, these effects were seen only at extremely high concentrations of phosalone and these concentrations were in the lethal range. Therefore, we suggest that ROS may not involve in the toxic effects of the pesticidal use of phosalone in low concentrations. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.