Congenital cardiovascular malformations (CCM) cause substantial neonatal morbidity and mortality. Known risk factors for CCM explain only 10-20% of all cases. Few studies have examined mothers' physical exposures during pregnancy and the risk of CCM in their offspring. This study examined the association between exposures to extreme temperatures, prolonged standing, and heavy lifting during early pregnancy and risk of CCM in offspring. Using a case-control study design, 502 cases and 1066 controls were drawn from the population of all liveborn infants born between January 1988 and June 1991 to mothers living in 14 counties in New York State. Cases were identified from a population-based registry of congenital malformations. Controls were randomly selected from birth certificate records. Interviews were conducted by telephone, using a structured questionnaire. Exposure estimates were based on women's self-reports of conditions in the residence and workplace. Eighty-three per cent of the mothers were white, and 66% were between 25 and 34 years old. After adjusting all results for known risk factors and confounding variables, we found no significant increased risk of CCM in subjects whose mothers reported being exposed during early pregnancy to extreme heat (OR = 1.13, 95% CI 0.59, 2.19), nor to extreme cold (OR = 1.19, 95% CI 0.66, 2.15). Mothers who reported ever using a hot tub, hot bath, or sauna during early pregnancy had no increased risk of CCM in their offspring (OR = 0.88, 95% CI 0.65, 1.18). Performing heavy lifting during early pregnancy did not increase the risk of CCM in offspring (OR = 0.80, 95% CI 0.57, 1.11). Prolonged standing during early pregnancy was not associated with an increased risk of CCM in children (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 0.82, 1.28). Thus if these maternal exposures have an adverse effect, it is unlikely to involve CCMs.