Concentrations of 34 trace elements in hair have been determined in 47 females from an acid region in southern Sweden, who were compared with 43 females from an alkaline area. The concentrations of these elements in hair and drinking water were determined by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The hair concentrations of boron and barium were significantly higher (p < 0.001) in hair samples from the acid region, the hair levels of calcium, strontium, molybdenum, iron, and selenium were significantly higher (p < 0.001) in the alkaline region. For some metals, e.g. calcium, lead, molybdenum, and strontium, there were positive correlations between the concentrations in hair and water (rs = 0.34-0.57; p < or = 0.001), indicating the importance of intake from minerals in water. The increased ratio of selenium/mercury concentrations in hair samples obtained in the alkaline district (p < 0.001) indicates that these subjects may have better protection against the toxic effects of mercury.