Lithium was determined in human serum by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Sample preparation was kept to the minimum: serum samples were diluted and beryllium was added as internal standard. Special attention was given to the choice of the internal standard and to the occurrence of memory effects. To test the accuracy of the method several biological reference materials were analysed, namely a "Second-Generation" Biological Reference Material (Freeze-Dried Human Serum) (University of Ghent), Human Serum SRM 909, Whole Egg Powder SRM 1845 and Mixed Human Diet SRM 1548 (National Institute of Standards and Technology). The results were compared with those obtained by other techniques. For the "second-generation" reference freeze-dried human serum a mean lithium concentration of 15.10 ng g-1 with a standard deviation of 0.54 ng g-1 dry weight was found. Analyses on serum samples from healthy individuals yielded lithium concentrations ranging from 0.22 to 0.97-mu-g l-1.