A relatively rapid, accurate and precise solid phase extraction method is presented for the determination of cadmium(II) and lead(II) in various food and water samples. Quantitation is carried out by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS). The method is based on the retention of the trace metal ions on Dowex Marathon C, a strong acid cation exchange resin. Some important parameters affecting the analytical performance of the method such as pH, flow rate and volume of the sample solution; type, concentration, volume, flow rate of the eluent; and matrix effects on the retention of the metal ions were investigated. Common coexisting ions did not interfere on the separation and determination of the analytes. The detection limits (3 sigma(b)) for Cd(II) and Pb(II) were found as 0.13 and 0.18 mu g L-1, respectively, while the limit of quantification values (10 sigma(b)) were computed as 0.43 and 0.60 mu g L-1 for the same sequence of the analytes. The precision (as relative standard deviation was lower than 4% at 5 mu g L-1 Cd(II) and 10 mu g L-1 Pb(II) levels, and the preconcentration factor was found to be 250. The accuracy of the proposed procedure was verified by analysing the certified reference materials, SPS-WW2 Batch 108 wastewater level 2 and INCT-TL-1 tea leaves, with the satisfactory results. In addition, for the accuracy of the method the recovery studies (?95%) were carried out. The method was applied to the determination of the analytes in the various natural waters (lake water, tap water, waste water with boric acid, waste water with H2SO4) and food samples (pomegranate flower, organic pear, radish leaf, lamb meat, etc.), and good results were obtained. While the food samples almost do not contain cadmium, they have included lead at low levels of 0.131.12 mu g g(-1). (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.