Poly(2‐octadecyl‐butanedioic acid), prepared from polyanhydride PA‐18, possesses novel heavy metal adsorption characteristics. The adsorption capacity of this water insoluble polymer for lead (II) was substantially higher than other heterogeneous adsorbants and is equivalent to those obtained with homogeneous sorbants. The polymer exhibited pseudo‐second‐order kinetics and nearly complete adsorption of lead occurred in 15 min with initial lead (II) concentrations greater than 100 mg · L−1. Adsorptive behavior was accurately predicted by the Dubinin‐Radushkevich isotherm model. The mean free energy of adsorption of lead (II) onto poly(2‐octadecyl‐butanedioic acid) was determined to be 31.6 kJ · mol−1, suggesting an ion exchange component to the adsorption mechanism. Gibb’s free energy values for this process indicate that it is spontaneous. Adsorption was relatively independent of pH in the range of 3–5, due to the utilization of the sodium carboxylate form of the chelating groups, and was not influenced by high Na+concentration and moderate concentrations (up to 200 mg · L−1) of Ca+2. Lead (II) solutions containing 2000 mg · L−1 Ca+2 did reduce the adsorption of 2000 mg · L−1 lead (II) by 28%. Journal of Macromolecular Science, Part A: Pure and Applied Chemistry Volume 45, Issue 8, 2008