This is the thirteenth annual review published in JAAS of the applications of atomic spectroscopy to the chemical analysis of environmental samples. The format used continues to be similar to that of previous years, highlighting the main features of this particular subject. Developments in instrumentation are not essentially a feature of this update, and so the emphasis is mainly with the establishment of reliable and robust methods of environmental analysis. The update does, however, focus on the areas of sampling, sample preparation and sample introduction in atomic spectroscopy. The most popular areas for development in sample preparation continuing to be dissolution/decomposition, separation and preconcentration, and solvent extraction, with the emphasis on the establishment of robust and valid methodology. The motives for this approach are usually being led by the necessity to develop simpler, low cost and safe methods. The importance of trace element determination in environmental analysis reflects the need of industry, government bodies and other interested groups to obtain reliable data as to the level of pollutants in the environment.