The German Environmental Survey (GerES) is a large-scale population study which has repeatedly been carried out in Germany. GerES I was conducted in 1985/1986 followed by GerES IIa in 1990/1991 (West Germany) and GerES IIb in 1991/1992 (East Germany). GerES III is currently run in both parts of Germany. The main goal of the surveys is to analyse and document the extent, distribution and determinants of the exposure to environmental pollutants of the German general population. Field work is conducted using a combination of several tools, including questionnaires, interviews, human biomonitoring, and indoor and outdoor environmental samplings. This paper describes the design of GerES II, and gives a general outline of the field work and the analytical procedures used. In GerES II, about 4000 adults were representatively selected from the German population with regard to age, gender and community size. Approximately 700 children were also included. Arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, and mercury were determined in blood, morning urine and/or scalp hair. In addition, samples were taken and analysed to characterise exposure in the domestic environment (indoor air, house dust, drinking water). The contribution to exposure of food was also studied. Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was determined by personal sampling.