Recent sediment cores of the western Baltic Sea were analyzed for heavy metal and carbon isotope contents. The sedimentation rate was determined from radiocarbon dates to be 1.4 mm/yr. The 'recent age' of the sediment was about 850 yr. Within the upper 20 cm of sediment, certain heavy metals became increasingly enriched towards the surface; Cd, Pb, Zn and Cu increased 7-, 4-, 3- and 2-fold, respectively, whereas Fe, Mn, Ni and Co remained unchanged. Simultaneously, the radiocarbon content decreased by about 14 per cent.