Free electron lasers have the promise of producing extremely high-intensity short pulses of coherent, monochromatic radiation in the 1-10 keV energy range. For example, the Linac Coherent Light Source at Stanford is being designed to produce an output intensity of 2x1014 W/cm2 in a 230 fs pulse. These sources will open the door to many novel research studies. However, the intense x-ray pulses may damage the optical components necessary for studying and controlling the output. At the full output intensity, the dose to optical components at normal incidence ranges from 1-10 eV/atom for low-Z materials (Z<14) at photon energies of 1 keV. It is important to have an understanding of the effects of such high doses in order to specify the composition, placement, and orientation of optical components, such as mirrors and monochromators. Doses of 10 eV/atom are certainly unacceptable since they will lead to ablation of the surface of the optical components. However, it is not precisely known what the damage thresholds are for the materials being considered for optical components for x-ray free electron lasers. In this paper, we present analytic estimates and computational simulations of the effects of high-intensity x-ray pulses on materials. We outline guidelines for the maximum dose to various materials and discuss implications for the design of optical components.© (2001) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.