In this study, the lead concentrations of chewing gum samples having different compositions were determined by solid sampling electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry. In order to optimise the experimental conditions, the effects of pyrolysis temperature, atomization temperature, sample amount and sample thermal pre-treatment, on the analyte sensitivity were investigated. The samples were ashed at 400 degrees C for 2 h prior to directly determined by SS-ETAAS applying 600 degrees C of pyrolysis and 1600 degrees C of atomization temperatures without to add a modifier, acid and/or surfactant. The relationship between sample mass and integrated absorbance was linear up to 1.2 mg of sample; for higher sample mass the relationship was no longer linear, irrespective of the lead content. In addition, the thermally treated chewing gum samples were digested using concentrated HNO3. The lead concentrations found by the two methods in 27 different kinds of samples were not significantly different at 95% confidence level. The proposed solid sampling technique was fast, simple, the risks of contamination and analyte loss were low. Detection limit (3 sigma) for lead was 0.017 ng/g. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.