For the first time liquid-liquid extraction was used for the preconcentration of heavy metals prior to their determination in water by microwave-induced plasma atomic emission spectrometry (MP-AES). Extraction of Pb(II), Cd(II), Co(II), Ni(II), Zn(II), and Cu(II) was performed in unconventional aqueous biphasic system (ABS) formed by addition of hydrophobic solid salt, namely, tetrahexylammonium bromide, to aqueous sample, with neither organic solvents nor salting-out agents being used. The metal ions were quantitatively recovered with 4-(2-pyridylazo)-resorcinol (PAR). The extract was diluted with ethanol/HCl and introduced directly into an MP-AES instrument. The factors influencing extraction (pH, reagent concentration, phase contact time, etc.) and MP-AES detection parameters were studied and optimized. For the developed method, limits of detection of 1.3, 4.9, 0.06, 1.2, 4.2, and 3.2 μg L-1 were obtained for cadmium, cobalt, copper, nickel, lead, and zinc, respectively, providing from 60- to 500-fold improvement as compared with the analysis without preconcentration. The method was applied for the analysis of two certified reference materials (CRM) of wastewater and surface water as well as the samples of well and seawater. Coupling MP-AES with ABS extraction significantly extends the capabilities of the method, especially for the analysis of high salinity waters.
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