The distributions of organic pollutants (like hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides) and the risks on the ecosystem were studied in the Durance River and the Berre lagoon (France). High levels of aliphatic hydrocarbons were observed in all stations (1399 to 11,202 mu g kg(-1) dw). The n-alkanes were mainly from terrigenous origin confirmed by the values of different ratios calculated (carbon preference index (CPI), natural n-alkanes ratio (NAR), terrigenous/aquatic ratio (TAR), and ratio of low molecular weight to high molecular weight (LMW/HMW)). Total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in the surface sediments of the Durance River and Berre lagoon are 57-1528 and 512-863 mu g kg(-1) dw, respectively. Several ratios between parent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons showed that the sources of hydrocarbons in the sediments were generally more pyrolytic than petrogenic. The sum of seven PCB contents ranged from 0.03 to 13.13 mu g kg(-1) dw. Higher levels of PCBs were detected in sediments from the northern parts of the Berre lagoon (stations B1 and B3). Total pesticides contents ranged from 0.02 to 7.15 mu g kg(-1) dw. Among these compounds, Sigma DDE and Sigma DDT contents ranged, respectively, from 0.35 to 1.65 and from 0.37 to 1.52 mu g kg(-1) dw. However, PAH and PCB levels are not high enough to be a threat to aquatic organisms and human beings. Total PAH levels were below the effects range low (ERL) of 3500 mu g kg(-1) dw. For PCBs, only two stations (B1 and B3) are higher than the effect range median (ERM) of 180 mu g kg(-1) dw. For endrin (pesticide), the concentrations are between the ERL (0.02 mu g kg(-1) dw) and the ERM (45 mu g kg(-1) dw).