This population study included 230 subjects (age range 20-83 years) who consumed vegetables grown in kitchen gardens on a sandy acidic soil (mean pH approximately 6.3). The study investigated the association between the Cd (cadmium) levels in blood and urine and the Cd concentration in the soil (range 0.2-44 ppm). Seventy-six subjects were current smokers and 122 participants lived in a district with known Cd pollution. Urinary Cd in the 230 subjects averaged 8.7 nmole/24 hr, (range 1.3 to 47 nmole/24 hr) after age adjustment positively correlated with the Cd level in the soil; a twofold increase of the Cd concentration in the soil was accompanied by a 7% rise in urinary Cd in men (R2 = 0.05; P = 0.04) and by a 4% rise in women (R2 = 0.02; P = 0.05). Blood Cd averaged 11.5 nmole/liter (range 1.8-41 nmole/liter) and was negatively associated with the Cd level in the soil. After adjustment for significant covariates (smoking and serum gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase in both sexes, and age and serum ferritin in women), a twofold increase in the Cd concentration in the soil was accompanied by a 6% decrease in blood Cd in men (R2 = 0.03; P = 0.09) and by a 10% decrease in women (R2 = 0.06; P less than 0.01). In conclusion, in a rural population, consuming vegetables grown on a sandy acidic soil, 2 to 4% of the variance of urinary Cd was directly related to the Cd level in the soil. The negative correlation with blood Cd, a measure of more recent exposure, was biased by the implementation of preventive measures in the polluted district.