Concentrations of lead, determined by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry, were compared between the cestodes Hymenolepis diminuta and Taenia taeniaeformis and its host rat (Rattus norvegicus). Rats were sampled at 2 sites, which differed in respect to lead pollution as quantified from road dust, adjacent to the city of Cairo, Egypt. Comparing lead levels among host tissues and the parasites the significantly highest accumulation was found in H. diminuta, followed by rat kidney and larvae of T. taeniaeformis. Calculation of bioconcentration factors showed that H. diminuta contained 36-, 29-, 6- and 6-fold higher lead levels than intestinal wall, liver, kidney and larvae of T. taeniaeformis, at the more polluted site. At the less contaminated site lead bioconcentration factors for H. diminuta were found to be 87, 87 and 11 referred to intestine, liver and kidney of the host. Due to a high variability of the lead concentrations in H. diminuta it was not possible to indicate differences in metal pollution between both sampling sites. This variability may be influenced by different age structures of cestode infrapopulations. It is likely that younger worms contain lower metal levels than older worms due to a shorter exposure period. Thus, it is necessary to standardize the sampling of worms which should be used for indication purposes. Due to a lack of adequate sentinel species in terrestrial habitats more studies are required to validate and standardize the use of helminths as accumulation bioindicators in order to obtain mean values with low standard deviations. The host–parasite system rat–H. diminuta appears to be a useful and promising bioindication system at least for lead in urban ecosystems as rats as well as the tapeworm are globally distributed and easily accessible.