An interpenetration network (IPN) was synthesized from 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) and chitosan, p(HEMA/chitosan) via UV-initiated photo-polymerization. The selectivity to different heavy metal ions viz Cd(II), Pb(II), and Hg(II) to the IPN membrane has been investigated from aqueous solution using bare pHEMA membrane as a control system. Removal efficiency of metal ions from aqueous solution using the IPN membranes increased with increasing chitosan content and initial metal ions concentrations, and the equilibrium time was reached within 60 min. Adsorption of all the tested heavy metal ions on the IPN membranes was found to be pH dependent and maximum adsorption was obtained at pH 5.0. The maximum adsorption capacities of the IPN membrane for Cd(II), Pb(II), and Hg(II) were 0.063, 0.179, and 0.197 mmol/g membrane, respectively. The adsorption of the Cd(II), Hg(II), and Pb(II) metal ions on the bare pHEMA membrane was not significant. When the heavy metal ions were in competition, the amounts of adsorbed metal ions were found to be 0.035 mmol/g for Cd(II), 0.074 mmol/g for Hg(II), and 0.153 mmol/g for Pb(II), the IPN membrane is significantly selective for Pb(II) ions. The stability constants of IPN membrane-metal ions complexes were calculated by the method of Ruzic. The results obtained from the kinetics and isotherm studies showed that the experimental data for the removal of heavy metal ions were well described with the second-order kinetic equations and the Langmuir isotherm model. (c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.