Fruits of `Granny Smith' and `Yellow Newtown' apples (Malus domestica Borkh), `20th Century' pear (Pyrus serotina L.), and `Angeleno' plum (Prunus domestica L.) were kept in air and in 0.25% or 0.02% O2 at 0, 5, or 10C for 3, 7, 14, 25, or 35 days to study the effects of low-O2 atmospheres on their postharvest physiology and quality attributes. Soluble solids content (SSC), pH, and external appearance were not significantly influenced, but resistance to CO2 diffusion was increased by the low-O2 treatments. Exposures to the low-O2 atmospheres inhibited ripening, including reduction in ethylene production rate, retardation of skin color changes and flesh softening, and maintenance of titratable acidity. The most important detrimental effect of the low-O2 treatments was development of an alcoholic off-flavor that had a logarithmic relation with ethanol content of the fruits. The ethanol content causing slight off-flavor (Eo) increased with SSC of the commodity at the ripe stage, and it could be estimated using the following formula: (Log Eo)/SSC = 0.228. Using SSC of ripe fruits and average ethanol accumulation rate per day (VE) from each low-O2 treatment, the tolerance limit (Tl) of fruits to low-O2 atmospheres could be predicted as follows: Tl = Eo/VE = (100.228SSC)/VE.