The detection of changes in mutation rate in human populations remains extremely difficult. Thus estimation of genetic hazards of mutagens to man depends on extrapolation from experimental systems. Germ cells of animals show complex variations in sensitivity to mutagenic effects. Some agents predominantly affect stem cells or other immature germ cells, whereas others mainly affect later germ cell stages. Dose-response relations also vary both with the agent and with the stage or sex of germ cell treated. In man, in addition to single-gene defects and chromosome anomalies, conditions of complex or uncertain inheritance, such as congenital malformations, are clinically important. Genetic theory leaves unclear whether the incidence of these would be affected by a change in mutation rate. Recent research has shown that in mice the incidence of malformations is increased by exposure of the parents to mutagens, but the effect is small. Chromosomal non-disjunction is also clinically important. Again, recent research shows that its frequency can be changed by mutagens, but the effects vary with germ-cell stage. Thus, further research is needed to elucidate the relative contributions of different environmental mutagens to human genetic disease.