The geochemical partitioning of Pb, Ni and Zn in contaminated quartz-rich sediment and soil samples was characterized by sequential extraction analysis in the presence and absence of nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA). With NTA, levels of metals recovered are higher in the earlier steps and lower in the later steps of the procedure. This suggests that post-extraction resorption is effectively counteracted by chelation, thereby improving the accuracy of the method. An NTA concentration of 200 mg liter(-1) appears to be sufficient for counteracting resorption without causing significant dissolution of non-targeted phases in the samples studied. However, experiments using reference materials spiked with solutions containing Pb, Ni, Cu and Zn suggest that resorption will remain a problem when large amounts of strong sorbents such as organic matter are present. The results also show that although post-extraction resorption does occur in the absence of NTA, the magnitude of resorption is small (<20 to 30% of the summed total of metal present in the sample) in quartz-rich sediments.