Hemin, the degradation product of hemoglobin, contributes to the neurodegeneration that occurs in the weeks following a hemorrhagic stroke. The breakdown of hemin in cells releases redox-active iron that can facilitate the production of toxic hydroxyl radicals. The present study used 3-week old primary cultures of mouse astrocytes to compare the toxicity of 33 μM hemin in the presence of the iron chelator 1,10-phenanthroline or its non-chelating analogue, 4,7-phenanthroline. This concentration of hemin killed approximately 75 % of astrocytes within 24 h. Both isoforms of phenanthroline significantly decreased the toxicity of hemin, with the non-chelating analogue providing complete protection at concentrations of 33 μM and above. The decrease in toxicity was associated with less cellular accumulation of hemin. Approximately 90 % of the hemin accumulated was not degraded, irrespective of treatment condition. These observations indicate that chelatable iron is not the cause of hemin toxicity. Cell-free experiments demonstrated that hemin can inactivate a molar excess of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and that the rate of inactivation is halved in the presence of either isoform of phenanthroline. We conclude that phenanthrolines may protect astrocytes by limiting hemin uptake and by impairing the capacity of intact hemin to interact with endogenous H2O2.