Overexposure to manganese (Mn) causes neurotoxicity (a Parkinson-like syndrome) or psychiatric damage ("manganese madness"). Several studies have shown alterations to motor and neural behavior associated with exposure to Mn in the workplace. However, there are few studies on the effects of environmental exposure of whole populations. We studied the risk of motor alterations in people living in a mining district in Mexico. We studied 288 individual people (168 women and 120 men) from eight communities at various distances from manganese extraction or processing facilities in the district of Molango. We measured manganese concentrations in airborne particles, water, soil and crops and evaluated the possible routes of Mn exposure. We also took samples of people's blood and determined their concentrations of Mn and lead (Pb). We used "Esquema de Diagnóstico Neuropsicológico" Ardila and Ostrosky-Solís's neuropsychological battery to evaluate motor functions. Concentrations of Mn in drinking water and maize grain were less than detection limits at most sampling sites. Manganese extractable by DTPA in soils ranged between 6 and 280 mg kg(-1) and means were largest close to Mn extraction or processing facilities. Air Mn concentration ranged between 0.003 and 5.86 microg/m(3); the mean value was 0.42 microg/m(3) and median was 0.10 microg/m(3), the average value (geometric mean) resulted to be 0.13 microg/m(3). Mean blood manganese concentration was 10.16 microg/l, and geometric mean 9.44 microg/l, ranged between 5.0 and 31.0 mcrog/l. We found no association between concentrations of Mn in blood and motor tests. There was a statistically significant association between Mn concentrations in air and motor tests that assessed the coordination of two movements (OR 3.69; 95% CI 0.9, 15.13) and position changes in hand movements (OR 3.09; CI 95% 1.07, 8.92). An association with tests evaluating conflictive reactions (task that explores verbal regulations of movements) was also found (OR 2.30; CI 95% 1.00, 5.28). It seems from our results that people living close to the manganese mines and processing plants suffer from an incipient motor deficit, as a result of their inhaling manganese-rich dust.