Near-ultraviolet radiation was found to be lethal for mammalian cells in Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium without serum or phenol red. Irradiation of the cells with near-ultraviolet light while the cells were in phosphate-buffered-saline abolished the lethal effect. When only the medium was irradiated followed by the addition of unirradiated cells and serum, the cells were still killed. The photoactive components of the medium for this effect were riboflavin, tryptophan, and tyrosine. When riboflavin was deleted from the medium being irradiated and added later, almost no killing was detected. Irradiation of salt solution of riboflavin and tryptophan or riboflavin and tyrosine, resulted in cell killing. Little or no killing resulted when riboflavin, tryptophan, or tyrosine was irradiated singly. The formation of photoproducts toxic for mammalian cells appears to involve photodynamic action. Experiments utilizing Dulbecco's or similar media without proper controls may produce anomalous results from light illuminating the laboratory.