Lead and nickel were preconcentrated as their ethylenediaminetetraacedic acid (EDTA) complexes from aqueous sample solutions using a column containing Ambersorb-572 and determined by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS). pH values, amount of solid phase, elution solution and flow rate of sample solution have been optimized in order to obtain quantitative recovery of the analytes. The effect of interfering ions on the recovery of the analytes has also been investigated. The recoveries of Pb and Ni under the optimum conditions were 99 +/- 12 and 97 +/- 13%, respectively, at 95% confidence level. Seventy-five-fold (using 750 mL of sample solution and 10 mL of eluent) and 50-fold (using 500 mL of sample solution and 10 mL of eluent) preconcentration was obtained for Pb and Ni, respectively. Time of analysis is about 4.5 h (for obtaining enrichment factor of 75). By applying these enrichment factors, the analytical detection limits of Pb and Ni were found as 3.65 and 1.42 ng mL(-1), respectively. The capacity of the sorbent was found as 0.17 and 0.21 mmol g(-1) for Pb and Ni, respectively. The interferences of some cations, such as Mn(2+) Co(2+), Fe(3+), Al(3+), Zn(2+), Cd(2+), Ca(2+), Mg(2+), K(+) and Na(+) usually present in water samples were also studied. This procedure was applied to the determination of lead and nickel in parsley, green onion, sea water and waste water samples. The accuracy of the procedure was checked by determining Pb and Ni in standard reference tea leaves sample (GBW-07605). The results demonstrated good agreement with the certified values. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.