It has been known for many years that relationships between absorbed dose and biological effect vary with the type of radiation. In particular, neutrons and alpha particles are more damaging than x or γ radiations. This applies to a range of biological effects such as cell killing, chromosome aberrations, cell mutation, cell transformation as well as life shortening and cancer induction in animals. The application of this knowledge to devise a scheme for specifying the quality factor (Q) in radiological protection has been the subject of much debate. There are no tumour data in humans from which the quality factor may be derived. The problems of using animal and cell transformation data which are probably the next best choice are discussed. The extensive data base on chromosomal aberrations in human lymphocytes is described and discussed in terms of relevance to deducing quality factors. Particular emphasis is placed on data obtained at low doses and low dose rates.