The purpose of the study described in this paper was to compare the removal of Cr(VI) and Cd(II) from an aqueous solution using two different Turkish fly ashes; Afsin-Elbistan and Seyitomer as adsorbents. The influence of four parameters (contact time, solution pH, initial metal concentration in solution and ash quality) on the removal at 20 +/- 2 degreesC was studied. Fly ashes were found to have a higher adsorption capacity for the adsorption of Cd(II) as compared to Cr(VI) and both Cr(VI) and Cd(II) required an equilibrium time of 2 h. The adsorption of Cr(VI) was higher at pH 4.0 for Afsin-Elbistan fly ash (25.46%) and pH 3.0 for Seyitomer fly ash (30.91%) while Cd(H) was adsorbed to a greater extent (98.43% for Afsin-Elbistan fly ash and 65.24% for Seyitomer fly ash) at pH 7.0. The adsorption of Cd(H) increased with an increase in the concentrations of these metals in solution while Cr(VI) adsorption decreased by both fly ashes. The lime (crystalline CaO) content in fly ash seemed to be a significant factor in influencing Cr(VI) and Cd(II) ions removal. The linear forms of the Langmuir and Freundlich equations were utilised for experiments with metal concentrations of 55 +/- 2 mg/l for Cr(VI) and 6 +/- 0.2 mg/l for Cd(III) as functions of solution pH (3.0-8.0). The adsorption of Cr(VI) on both fly ashes was not described by both the Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms while Cd(III) adsorption on both fly ashes satisfied only the Langmuir isotherm model. The adsorption capacities of both fly ashes were nearly three times less than that of activated carbon for the removal of Cr(VI) while Afsin-Elbistan fly ash, with high-calcium content was as effective as activated carbon for the removal of Cd(II). Therefore, there are possibilities for use the adsorption of Cd(III) ions onto fly ash with high, calcium content in practical applications in Turkey. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.