Objectives Trace elements (TEs) from natural and anthropogenic sources are ubiquitous. Essential or not, their relevance for human health and disease is constantly expanding. Biological monitoring is a widely integrated tool in risk assessment both in occupational and environmental settings. However, the determination of appropriate and accurate reference values in the (specific) population is a prerequisite for a correct interpretation of biomonitoring data. This study aimed at determining the reference distribution for TEs (Al, As, Sb, Be, Bi, Cd, Co, Cu, Mn, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb, Se, Tl, Sn, V, Zn) in the blood and/or plasma of the adult population in Belgium. Methods Blood and plasma samples were analyzed for 178 males and 202 females, recruited according to an a priori selection procedure, by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Results Reference values were established with high confidence for AsT, Cd, Cu, HgT, Mn, Mo, Pb, Sn, Se, Tl and Zn. Compared to previously published data in the Belgian population, a decreasing time trend is observed for Zn, Cd and Pb. Globally, the results also indicate that the current exposure levels to TEs in the Belgian population are similar to those from other recent national surveys. Conclusions These reference values and limits obtained through validated analytical and statistical methods will be useful for future occupational and/or environmental surveys. They will contribute to decision-making concerning both public health policies but also exposure assessments on an individual scale.