An atomic absorption spectrophotometric method for the determination of trace copper after adsorption of its 1-nitroso-2naphthol- 3,6-disulfonic acid chelate on Ambersorb 572 has been developed. This chelate is adsorbed on the adsorbent in the pH range 1-8. The copper chelate is eluted with 5 ml of 0.1 mol l(-1) potassium cyanide and determined by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS). The selectivity of the proposed procedure was also evaluated. Results show that iron(III), zinc(II), manganese(II) and cobalt(II) at the 50 mug l(-1) level and sodium(l), potassium(l), magnesium(II), calcium(II) and aluminium(III) at the 1000 mug l(-1) level did not interfere. A high enrichment factor, 200, was obtained. The detection limit (3sigma) of copper was 0.34 mug l(-1). The precision of the method, evaluated by seven replicate analyses of solutions containing 5 mug of copper was satisfactory and the relative standard deviation was 1.7%. The adsorption of copper onto Ambersorb 572 can formally be described by a Langmuir equation with a maximum adsorption capacity of 14.3 mg g(-1) and a binding constant of 0.004441 mg(-1). The accuracy of the method is confirmed by analysing tomatoes leaves (NIST 1573a) and lead base alloy (NBS 53e). The results demonstrated good agreement with the certified values. This procedure was applied to the determination of copper in waters (tap, river and thermal waters), aluminium foil and tea samples. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.