The potential effects of proposed lead-zinc mining in an ecologically sensitive area were assessed by studying a nearby mining district that has been exploited for about 30 yr under contemporary environmental regulations and with modern technology. Blood and liver samples representing fish of three species (largescale stoneroller, Campostoma oligolepis, n=91; longear sunfish, Lepomis megalotis, n=105; and northern hog sucker, Hypentelium nigricans, n=20) were collected from 16 sites representing a range of conditions relative to lead-zinc mining and ore beneficiation in southeastern Missouri. Samples were analyzed for lead, zinc, and cadmium, and for a suite of biomarkers (reported in a companion paper). A subset of the hog sucker (n=9) representing three sites were also analyzed for nickel and cobalt. Blood and liver lead concentrations were highly correlated (r=0.84-0.85, P < 0.01) in all three species and were significantly (ANOVA, P < 0.01) greater at sites < 10 km downstream of active lead-zinc mines and mills and in a historical lead-zinc mining area than at reference sites, including a site in the area proposed for new mining. Correlations between blood and liver cadmium concentrations were less evident than for lead but were nevertheless statistically significant (r=0.26-0.69, P < 0.01-0.07). Although blood and liver cadmium concentrations were highest in all three species at sites near mines, within-site variability was greater and mining-related trends were less evident than for lead. Blood and liver zinc concentrations were significantly correlated only in stoneroller (r=0.46, P < 0.01) and mining-related trends were not evident. Concentrations of cobalt and nickel in blood and liver were significantly higher (ANOVA, P < 0.01) at a site near an active mine than at a reference site and a site in the historical lead-zinc mining area. These findings confirm previous studies indicating that lead and other metals are released to streams from active lead-zinc mines and are available for uptake by aquatic organisms. ?? 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.