The environmental health surveillance system in the Federal State of Baden-Wuerttemberg (South Germany), among others, was implemented to monitor pollutant exposures and their temporal and regional trends in children at the age of about 10 years. The investigations were performed in two larger cities, one small city and one rural area. Between 1996 and 2003, in total 5470 children were investigated in consideration of environmental health parameters in four cross-sectional studies. The data presented here cover the results of the determination of the internal load with toxic metals. The median values observed in the investigation in 2002/03 were: 4.6 microg/l urine for arsenic, less than 0.2 microg/l urine for mercury, 20.7 microg/l blood for lead, and 0.25 microg/l blood for cadmium. From 1996 to 2003, mercury concentrations showed a substantial decrease (-0.027 microg/l/year) and lead levels also decreased (-0.25 microg/l/year), whereas arsenic and cadmium levels did not change significantly over time. There was no consistent difference in the mean internal load of the metals between the four investigation areas. Important factors influencing the measured concentrations were consumption of fish in the last 48 h, which had an impact on arsenic (factor 2), and amalgam fillings, which accounted for an increase in mercury (factor 4.6). In the 2002/03 study period, levels above the limit of health concern for children (German HBM values) were found in about 0.5% of the lead measurements (maximum value 180 microg/l blood) and in about 0.2% of the mercury measurements (maximum value 8.2 microg/l urine). In conclusion, this environmental health survey generates objective data on secular trends and regional differences and provides insight into probable sources of toxic metal exposure in children.