On the basis of a large-scale survey with 269 sampling sites and a field experiment with 12 cultivars grown at 3 ecologically different locations, Cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) contamination in milled rice grains and its variation among different locations were investigated in the area of southeast China. The objective of this study was mainly to assess the present situation of Cd and Pb contamination in rice grains harvested locally and find out the variation of Cd and Pb background levels in rice grains among the diverse regional locations. The results showed that: a) Cd concentrations in milled rice grains ranged from trace (below 10 ng/g) to 340 ng/g, with the means of 81.4 ng/g (AM) and 55.2 ng/g (GM) for the 269 samples, whereas Pb concentrations ranged from trace (below 10 ng/g) to 1136 ng/g, with the means of 113.5 ng/g (AM) and 51.0 ng/g (GM), respectively. High frequency was observed for both the Cd and Pb concentrations ranging from trace to 200 ng/g, with 95.9% for Cd and 84.8% for Pb, respectively. b) ANOVA for the AMs and GMs among 269 sampling sites indicated that there were significant differences among the different spatial locations in Cd or Pb concentrations. c) The Cd concentrations in milled rice grains were poorly correlated with Pb concentration among the 269 sampling sites surveyed, and no significant difference (P>0.05) in the AMs or GMs of Cd and Pb concentration was observed among different cities within a range of the same provinces, only with an exception for 1-2 provinces. d) Variance analysis of Cd, Pb concentrations for 12 rice cultivars grown in three locations showed that the great difference in coefficients of variation (CV) was observed both among cultivars grown in the same location and among locations of cultivars planted, in which locations showed much more contribution to the variation of Cd or Pb concentration in milled rice grains as compared with cultivars.