In this study we examined breath volatile hydrocarbon concentrations in exhaled air of hemodialysis patients. We assessed both C<sub>2</sub>–C<sub>5</sub> alkanes – among them ethane and pentane the production of which in man is essentially due to the action free radicals exert on polyunsaturated fatty acids – and isoprene, an unsaturated hydrocarbon the biosynthesis and biological effects of which are the subject of controversy and mounting interest. Twenty patients were studied. Evaluation was performed intrapatient in the breath of patients with chronic renal failure, before and after dialysis (20 patients) and, in the same cases, during hemodialytic treatment (10 patients). Breath concentrations of these volatile hydrocarbons, determined before dialysis, were not different from those of normal subjects. Dialysis did not modify the levels of the C<sub>2</sub>–C<sub>5</sub> saturated hydrocarbons ethane, propane, butane and pentane. Instead, there was a marked increase in isoprene in all patients (basal values rose by a mean of 270%). Since isoprene was not present in the fluids or filters used for dialysis and there were only traces in the ambient air, the isoprene must have been produced endogenously during hemodialysis. As no situation has previously been reported to increase endogenous production of isoprene in humans, patients in hemodialysis offer a unique opportunity to investigate in depth the medical, biological and toxicological aspects of isoprene.