This work aimed to develop a solid-phase extraction method using low-cost activated carbon produced from waste and modified with 4-(2-thiazolylazo) resorcinol for Cd(II), Pb(II), and Cu(II). The results showed that quantitative recovery of analytes was obtained at pH 6 with 3 M nitric acid as the eluent and a sample volume up to 1000 mL. The method was validated using certified reference material and addition-recovery tests. The limits of detection (LODs) for Pb(II), Cd(II), and Cu(II) were 2.03 mu g L-1, 0.15 mu g L-1, and 0.19 mu g L-1, respectively. The procedure was applied for determination of analytes in food samples. (C) 2014 The Korean Society of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.