Certain physiological differences between individuals in different populations of the mussel, Mytilus edulis, are described. In particular, the scope for growth differs in space and time and may be used to assess the animals' physiological condition. When the required measurements are made in the field, the rates of growth predicted from the physiological data agree well with observed rates of growth. An alternative approach utilizes mussels transplanted to various waters, with indices of condition then measured in the laboratory under standard conditions; an example of this approach is illustrated. Laboratory experiments are used to equate various levels of physiological condition with fecundity, in an attempt to equate physiological effects on the individual with likely population damage. A cytochemical index of stress is described, based on the latency of lysosomal enzymes; spatial variability in this index, and its relation with the scope for growth, are discussed. Finally, the results of some experiments on the effects of petroleum hydrocarbons on mussels are described and the presence of inducible activity of NADPH-dependent tetrazolium reductase in the blood cells is demonstrated. Certain considerations that apply in adopting similar measurements of biological effects of pollution in environmental monitoring programmes are discussed.