Silica gel modified with 3-mereaptopropyl-trimethoxysilane was used for the selective separation and pre-concentration of selenite (Se(IV)) from aqueous solutions containing Se(IV) and selenate (Se(VI)). Over a wide range of acidity, from 2 mol 1(-1) HCl to pH 9.00, Se(IV) was taken up by the mercaptopropyl-silica with nearly 100% efficiency; Se(VI) however was unretained. Se(IV) content was determined by hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry (HGAAS), following batch release of the selenium from the pre-concentration medium by acidic periodate. The overall pre-concentration efficiency, including both take-up and elution, in the range of 89-106%. The method was applied to spiked seawater samples containing as low as 800 ng 1(-1) Se in selenite form. This solid-phase extraction system offers several major advantages over conventional solvent extraction procedures. It firstly exhibits high selectivity for Se(IV) over Se(VI). Using the solid-phase media, pre-concentration of Se(IV) in dilute water samples can be carried out in the field, stabilizing the selenite-selenium in a convenient form for transport and storage. In addition, selenium stored on silica is derived solely from Se(IV) overcoming problems of selenium redox speciation changes and loss during storage. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.