There are limited data on the concentrations of common contaminants--polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (pp'-DDE) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB)--in umbilical cord blood. Cord blood provides the primary direct measure of prenatal exposure to these contaminants, the key determinant of PCBs' neurodevelopmental toxicities. The objective of this study was to characterize cord blood levels of PCBs, pp'-DDE, and HCB among 751 infants who were born between 1993 and 1998 to mothers residing adjacent to a PCB-contaminated harbor in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and for whom the neurodevelopmental toxicities of these compounds are being studied. We refined standard analytic methods to optimize the sensitivity and precision of trace-level PCB, p,p'-DDE, and HCB measurements in blood. Using these methods, we measured the concentrations of 51 individual PCBs, their sum (sum(PCB)), p,p'-DDE, and HCB in cord serum. With correction for background contamination, the respective mean+/-SD cord serum concentrations of sum(PCB), p,p'-DDE, and HCB were 0.54+/-0.83, 0.48+/-0.94, and 0.03+/-0.04 ng/g serum. These concentrations were generally lower than those in most of the few published studies with congener-specific measures of PCBs in cord blood. However, for less-chlorinated PCB congeners (e.g., congeners 99 and 118), study samples had concentrations comparable to those in other populations, including groups at risk for high dietary PCB exposure. Of note, the contaminated harbor sediment has a relatively high proportion of less-chlorinated PCB congeners. Thus, although the sum(PCB) in study infants was not higher than concentrations in infants studied elsewhere, the relative predominance of less-chlorinated congeners was generally consistent with the characteristics of the contaminated site.