This overview presents in detail the state of knowledge of the abilities of various components of the Baltic Sea environment to accumulate trace elements and radionuclides. Particular components of the Baltic ecosystem (abiotic and biotic) are considered as potential monitors of pollutants. The use of seaweeds, e.g. Fucus vesiculosus or Zostera marina is recommended, also molluscs, e.g. Mytilus edulis, for biomonitoring surveys of metal pollutants and radionuclides in the Baltic Sea. However, several requirements need to be met if results are to be reliable. Since metal levels and radionuclide activities in the growing tips of F. vesiculosus reflect exclusively the levels of their dissolved species in the ambient seawater, this alga is very useful for monitoring dissolved species of metal pollutants and radioisotopes in the Baltic ecosystem. In contrast, M. edulis, a filter feeder is an appropriate tool for monitoring trace elements occurring in both chemical forms, i.e. dissolved and suspended species. Therefore, full information on the bioavailability and toxicity of heavy metals (depending on their chemical speciation) as pollutants of the Baltic Sea can be obtained if at least two biomonitoring organisms are applied simultaneously, e.g. F. vesiculosus and M. edulis. Moreover, the data matrix can be interpreted more accurately if not only trace element but also macroelement concentrations (Ca, Mg, Na, K) in these two representatives of Baltic phyto- and zoobenthos are taken into consideration; this point requires special attention. Two coastal species of fish, i.e. Zoarces viviparus and Perca fluviatilis, are good biomonitors of metallic contaminants, so their use as sentinels is recommended. The budgets of chemical elements and the ecological status of the Baltic Sea are presented. Several "black spots", e.g. large estuaries and seaport towns, heavily polluted by trace elements, are identified in the Baltic Sea and other enclosed seas such the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Of these seas, the Baltic is the most heavily loaded with trace elements and organic pollutants. The overview identifies gaps in our environmental knowledge of the Baltic Sea, and sets out possible priorities, key areas or strategies for future research.