The call for brighter synchrotron X-radiation sources for use in structural biology research is barely audible as we enter the new millennium. Our brightest sources are already creating havoc when used at design specifications because of radiation damage. The time is long overdue to take stock of where we are and where we wish to go with regards to using existing sources and to designing new ones. The problem of radiation damage is particularly acute in studies involving kinetics and mechanisms where cryo-techniques are not always viable. Accordingly, we need to understand the very nature of radiation damage and to devise means of minimizing it. This is the thrust of the current report as applied to lipid membranes and mesophases. The experiments were performed at the most brilliant beamlines at CHESS, the APS and the ESRF. Two very different types of radiation damage are reported here. One involves a dramatic phase transformation and the other a disordering of lamellar stacking. How beam energy and dose rate affect damage is also discussed. The work highlights the free-radical-mediated nature of the damage process and the need for additional studies if the most efficient use is to be made of an important resource, synchrotron radiation.