Lead isotope ratios were used to trace the origin of Pb in a soil-plant (Urtica dioica)-snail (Cepaea nemoralis) food chain in two polluted locations in the floodplains of the rivers Meuse and Rhine (Biesbosch National Park) and one reference location in the Netherlands. Lead isotope ratios and concentrations were determined in soil, litter, plant leaves, snails, rainwater and airborne particulate matter. Anthropogenic Pb in the soils of all locations was found to be derived from deposition of Pb polluted river sediments. Discharging rivers influenced the reference location before being reclaimed from the sea. The river sediment contains anthropogenic Pb from various sources related to industrial activities in the hinterland of the rivers Meuse and Rhine. Lead in the atmosphere contributed substantially to Pb pollution and Pb transfer in plant leaves and snails in all locations. Lead pollution in plant leaves and snails can be explained from a mixture of river sediment-Pb and atmospheric Pb from various transfer routes that involve low concentrations. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.