We determined whole blood lead and cadmium levels, and serum selenium levels in patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and age- and sex-matched controls. Disability due to the disease directly correlated with lead levels, and there was a strong inverse correlation with selenium concentrations. Lead and selenium concentrations tended to be similar in the cases and controls, both in the study population as a whole and after the removal from the analysis of the patients with the highest degree of disability. In the patients with limited disability, cadmium concentrations were higher than in the controls. Our findings lend limited support to a possible involvement of cadmium, but not lead, in the etiology of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and strongly suggest that short-term indicators of exposure are inadequate to investigate the relationship between selenium and the disease.