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Oxidative damage of biomolecules and antioxidant status in erythrocytes of humans from an outbreak of argemone oil (AO) poisoning in Kannauj (India) and AO intoxicated experimental animals was investigated. Erythrocytes of the dropsy patients and AO treated rats were found to be more susceptible to 2,2′-azobis (2-amidinopropane) dihydrochloride (AAPH) induced peroxidative stress. Significant decrease in RBC glutathione (GSH) levels (46, 63%) with concomitant enhancement in oxidized glutathione (172, 154%) levels was noticed in patients and AO intoxicated animals. Further, depletion of glutathione reductase (GR), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PDH) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) (42–52%) was observed in dropsy patients. Oxidation of erythrocyte membrane lipids and proteins was increased (120–144%) in patients and AO treated animals (112–137%) along with 8-OHdG levels in whole blood (180%) of dropsy patients. A significant reduction in α-tocopherol content (68%) was noticed in erythrocytes of dropsy patients and hepatic, plasma and RBCs of AO treated rats (59–70%) thereby indicating the diminished antioxidant potential to scavenge free radicals or the limited transport of α-tocopherol from liver to RBCs leading to enhanced oxidation of lipids and proteins in erythrocytes. These studies implicate an important role of erythrocyte degradation in production of anemia and breathlessness in epidemic dropsy.