Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN) occurs in Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. BEN has been characterized as a chronic, slowly progressive renal disease of unknown etiology. In this study, we examined the influence of soluble organic compounds in drinking water leached from Pliocene lignite from BEN-endemic areas on plasma lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) activity. We found that changes for all samples were the most prominent for the dilution category containing 90% plasma and 10% of diluting media. Water samples from BEN villages from Serbia and Romania showed higher LCAT inhibiting activity (p = 0.02) and (p = 0.003), respectively, compared to deionised water and non-endemic water. A secondary LCAT deficiency could result from this inhibitory effect of the organic compounds found in endemic water supplies and provide an ethiopathogenic basis for the development of BEN in the susceptible population. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.