Short lake sediment cores from ten lakes in the Romanian Carpathians have been characterised, both mineral magnetically and geochemically, providing an assessment of the potential of these mountain lakes' sediment records as a retrospective indicator of atmospheric pollution. Mineral magnetic characteristics suggests that recent sediments have been affected by atmospheric particulate pollution associated with fossil fuel combustion and vehicle emissions, although the properties may also reflect within-lake processes. Metal enrichment factors for contemporary sediments reveal that remote mountain lakes in this region appear to have been impacted by the long-range atmospheric transport of metallic pollutants. The results suggest that sites in the southern mountains are most impacted, although trace metal levels are relatively modest. Initial findings suggest that some sites have the potential to provide lake sediment-based pollution histories that will thereby contribute to a fuller, Europe-wide understanding of the impact of atmospheric pollutants in upland regions. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.