Alkali Blue GB-attached poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (poly(HEMA)) microporous films were investigated as chelate forming sorbents for heavy metal removal. Poly(HEMA) microporous films were prepared by UV-initiated photo-polymerization of HEMA in the presence of an initiator (azobisisobutyronitrile (AIBN)). Alkali Blue 6E was attached covalently. These films with a swelling ratio of 58%, and carrying 14.8 mmol Alkali Blue 6E m(-2) which were then used in the removal of Cd(II), Zn(II) and Pb(II) from aqueous media. Adsorption rates were very high, equilibrium was achieved in about 30 min. The maximum adsorption of heavy metal ions onto the Alkali Blue BE-attached films were 41.4 mmol m(-2) for Cd(II), 52.4 mmol m(-2) for Zn(II), and 64.5 mmol m(-2) for Pb(II). When the heavy metal ions competed during the adsorption from a mixture the adsorption values for Cd(II), Zn(II) and Pb(II) were quite close. Heavy metal ions were desorbed by using 0.1 M HNO3. A significant amount of the adsorbed heavy metal ions (up to 95%) could be desorbed in 30 min. Repeated adsorption/desorption cycles showed the feasibility of these novel dye-attached microporous films for heavy metal removal. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.