In assessing the concentrations of toxic metals, such as cadmium, chromium, and mercury, in human blood and urine samples to determine whether they are abnormal or not, reliable reference values are needed from populations of nonoccupationally exposed subjects. Numerous publications present concentrations claimed to be typical for the study populations, but they can differ by up to an order of magnitude for a particular element. This is the consequence of general problems that are related to the definition of the reference groups, and the sampling and analytical procedures used, and that make it difficult to define typical and unbiased values. An international group of experts now establishes criteria and procedures to evaluate publications containing information on the concentrations of metals in tissues and body fluids for reference populations. These evaluations have been compiled in a data base (TRACY).