A novel polymeric ligand exchanger (PLE) was prepared for the removal of phosphate ions from water. 2,2'-dipyridyla mine (DPA), a bidentate ligand forming compound with high coordination capacity with a variety of metal ions was bound to glycidyl methacrylate (GMA) grafted polypropylene/polyethylene (PP/PE) nonwoven fabric synthesized by radiation-induced grafting technique. DPA attachment on epoxy ring of GMA units was tested in different solvents, i.e. methanol, ethanol, dioxane and dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO). The highest amount of modification was achieved in dioxane. In order to prepare the corresponding PLE for the removal of phosphate, DPA-immobilized fabric was loaded with Cu(II) ions. Phosphate adsorption experiments were performed in batch mode at different pH (5-9) and phosphate concentrations. The fabric was found to be effective for the removal of phosphate ions. At every stage of preparation and use, the nonwoven fabric was characterized by thermal (i.e. DSC and TGA) and spectroscopic (FTIR) methods. Competitive adsorption experiments were also carried out using two solutions with different concentration levels at pH 7 to see the effect of competing ions. Phosphate adsorption was found to be effective and selective from solutions having trace amounts of competitive anions. It is expected that the novel PLE synthesized can be used for the removal of phosphate ions in low concentrations over a large range of pH. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.