Higher cardiovascular mortality has been associated in a single epidemiological study with higher levels of barium in drinking water. The purpose of the study was to determine whether drinking water barium at levels found in some U.S. communities alters the known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Eleven healthy men completed a 10-week dose-response protocol in which diet was controlled (600 mg cholesterol; 40% fat, 40% carbohydrate, 20% protein; sodium and potassium controlled at the subject's pre-protocol estimated intake). Other aspects of the subjects' lifestyles known to affect cardiac risk factors were controlled, and the barium content (as barium chloride) of the drinking water (1.5 L/day) was varied from 0 (first 2 weeks), to 5 ppm (next 4 weeks), to 10 ppm (last 4 weeks). Multiple blood and urine samples, morning and evening blood pressure measurements, and 48-hr electrocardiographic monitoring were performed at each dose of barium. There were no changes in morning or evening systolic or diastolic blood pressures, plasma cholesterol or lipoprotein or apolipoprotein levels, serum potassium or glucose levels, or urine catecholamine levels. There were no arrythmias related to barium exposure detected on continuous electrocardiographic monitoring. A trend was seen toward increased total serum calcium levels with exposure to barium, which was of borderline statistical significance and of doubtful clinical significance. In summary, drinking water barium at levels of 5 and 10 ppm did not appear to affect any of the known modifiable cardiovascular risk factors.