In the presented work, 5,5-diphenylimidazolidine-2,4-dione (phenytoin) (DFTD), 5,5-diphenylimidazolidine-2-thione-,4-one (thiophenytoin) (DFID) and 2-(4'-methoxy-benzylidenimine) thiophenole (MBIP) modified activated carbons have been used for the solid phase extraction of copper and lead ions prior to their flame atomic absorption spectrometric determinations. The influences of the various analytical parameters including pH, amounts of reagent, sample volume and eluent type, etc. on the recovery efficiencies of copper and lead ions were investigated. The influences of alkaline, earth alkaline and some transition metals on the adsorption of the analytes were also examined. The detection limits by three sigma for analyte ions were 0.65 and 0.42 mu g L(-1) using activated carbon modified with DFID; 0.52 and 0.37 mu g L(-1) using activated carbon modified with DFTD and 0.46 and 0.31 mu g L(-1) using activated carbon modified with MBIP for Pb(II) and Cu(II), respectively. The procedure was applied to the determination of analytes in natural waters, soil, and blood samples with satisfactory results (recoveries greater than 95%, R.S.D.'s lower than 4%). (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.