N-carboxymethyl chitosan (NCMC) was prepared by reacting chitosan (CTS) with chloroacetic acid and characterized by 13C-NMR spectroscopy to confirm that carboxymethylation occurred only in the amino groups. The adsorption properties of CTS, NCMC and O-carboxymethyl chitosan (OCMC) towards Pb(II) ions were evaluated and the order of the adsorption capacity was as follows: NCMC > OCMC > CTS. The effects of initial pH value (2.0–5.5) of the solutions and contact time (5–120 min) on adsorption of Pb(II) were investigated and the kinetic data were evaluated using the pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order models. Kinetics study showed that the adsorption process followed second-order kinetics rather than the first-order one. Furthermore, the experimental equilibrium data of Pb(II) on the NCMC were analyzed using the Langmuir and Freundlich isotherm models and the results indicated that the Langmuir model gave a better fit than the Freundlich equation and the maximum adsorption capacity obtained from the Langmuir model was 421.9 mg g−1.

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