In this study, the use of syringe filled with sorbent for the separation and enrichment of bismuth, lead and nickel prior to their analysis by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry was described to substitute for batch and column techniques. The method proposed in this paper was compared with column technique with respect to easiness, fastness, simplicity, recovery and risk of contamination. The syringe was filled with 0.5 g of sorbent and in order to retain the analyte elements, 5 ml of sample solution (pH greater than or equal to 5) was drawn into the syringe to 15 s and discharged again in 15 s. Then, 2.0 M of HCl, as the eluent, was drawn into the syringe and ejected back to desorb the analyte elements. At optimum conditions, the recoveries of Bi, Pb and Ni were 95-99% with relative standard deviations (RSDs) of around +/-2%. Detection limit (delta) was 0.5 mug l(-1) for Bi, Pb and Ni, respectively. The elements could be concentrated by drawing and discharging several portions of sample successively abut eluting only one time. Bi, Pb and Ni added to a seawater sample were quantitatively recovered (> 95%) with low RSD values of around +/-2-3%. The risk of contamination is less than that with the column technique. In addition, it is much faster, simpler, easier, more practical and handy compared with column technique. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.