Shells of the pod razor shell (Ensis siliqua) from 13 locations around the west coast of mainland Britain have been analysed by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for a range of trace metals including Zn, Cd, Pb, U, Ba, Sr and Mg. The trace metal record in these shells is a proxy record for changes in seawater chemistry during the 1990s. Regional variations exist in the median concentrations of the analysed metals. Barium concentrations are related to increased productivity from sewage sludge dumping at sea. Strontium shows a local relationship to salinity, but there is no clear relationship over the study area, instead high Sr is often associated with high Ba, and may reflect ontogenetic factors such as growth rate. Magnesium shows a seasonal variation within individual shells and can be used to calculate sea surface temperatures from groups of shells. Contaminant metals show a clear regional relationship with known sources, thus high Pb and Zn are typically associated with former metal mining areas (e.g. Cardigan Bay, Anglesey), and high Pb, Zn, Cd and U are associated with industrial activity in Liverpool Bay. Anomalies such as the high U in shells from northern Scotland cannot at present be explained. A seasonal variation of Pb is also seen in Cardigan Bay and Liverpool Bay, relating to increased winter fluxes of these metals to the marine environment. The regional distribution of these metals is consistent with known sources of contamination and patterns of seawater migration around the coast of Britain.