Lead mining in the Sierra Madrona mountains and the valley of Alcudia in Southern Spain began in the 1st millennium B.C., and the area was intermittently exploited up until the end of the 20th century. The degree of contamination by Pb, Zn, Cd, Cu, As and Se of soil, water and sediment, and the transfer to 13 species of plants, and then to red deer (Cervus elaphus) have been studied. Mined areas had higher concentrations in stream sediments than control areas. The highest concentrations were observed for Pb (1481 microg g(-1) d.w.) and As (1880 microg g(-1)) in the sediment of a stream flowing beside the spoil dump at Mina de Horcajo. Plants from mining sites contained consistently higher levels of Pb and As, and their concentrations in plants were correlated. The highest concentrations of Pb were in Gramineae (Pb: 97.5, As: 2.4 microg g(-1) d.w.), and the lowest in elmleaf blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius). The highest mean liver concentrations were found in red deer from the mining sites for Pb (0.805 microg g(-1) d. w.), Cd (0.554 microg g(-1)), Se (0.327 microg g(-1)), and As (0.061 microg g(-1)), although these were well below the levels associated with clinical poisoning.