A method for determination of trace amounts of Cu, Fe, Pb, Mn, Zn, Cd, Ni, Bi and Cr in aqueous solutions by flame atomic absorption spectrometry after coprecipitation by using a combination of sodium diethyldithiocarbamate as a chelating agent and cobalt as a carrier element was introduced. Different factors including amounts of reagents, pH of sample solution, standing time, sample volume for the precipitation and matrix effects were examined. Under selected conditions, the relative standard deviation of the combined method of sample treatment, coprecipitation and determination with flame AAS (n = 9) is generally about 3.5-6.9%; the limits of detection (3 s; n = 20) for the analytes were found to be between 4 and 64 mu g l(-1). The procedure was applied to the analysis of sea water and dialysis concentrate samples with quantitative recovery, greater than or equal to 95%. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.