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Total cross sections for the dissociative electron attachment process are presented for the DNA bases thymine, cytosine, and adenine and for three compounds used as surrogates for the ribose and phosphate groups, tetrahydrofuran, 3-hydroxytetrahydrofuran, and trimethylphosphate, respectively. Cross section magnitudes are obtained by observation of positive ion production and normalization to ionization cross sections calculated elsewhere using the binary-encounter-Bethe method. The average cross section of the three bases is 3–10 times smaller than the effective cross section per nucleotide reported for single strand breaks in surface-bound super-coiled DNA. Consequently, damage to the bases alone does not appear to account for the major portion of the strand breaks. The presence of an OH group on the ribose surrogate considerably enhances its cross section. Model compounds in which protonation or OH groups are used to terminate bonds may therefore display larger cross sections than in DNA itself.