We have identified silicic acid (Si(OH)(4)) as an important modifier of the absorbance signal of aluminium measured by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS). The presence of Si(OH)(4) enhanced the signal by as much as 50%. The extent of the enhancement was dependent upon both [Al] and [Si(OH)(4)] and was maximal when [Al]< or =4.44 micromol dm(-3) and [Si(OH)(4)]> or =0.50 mmol dm(-3). The enhancement of the Al absorbance signal was not linearly related to [Si(OH)(4)] and the effect was, generally, saturated, for all [Al] tested, at [Si(OH)(4)]> or =0.50 mmol dm(-3). Si(OH)(4) was significantly more effective in enhancing the Al absorbance signal than Mg(NO(3))(2). However, the co-occurrence of 10 mmol dm(-3) Mg(NO(3))(2) and 2 mmol dm(-3) Si(OH)(4) in samples abolished the enhancement due to Si(OH)(4). The presence of Si(OH)(4) in samples could result in an overestimation of the Al content of those samples by as much as 50%. Errors in the measurement of Al in samples containing Si(OH)(4) could be prevented using matrix-matched calibration standards. Our observation could have serious implications for the determination of Al in aqueous samples of both geochemical and biological interest. It may also point towards the application of Si(OH)(4) as a novel and effective matrix modifier in the determination of Al by GFAAS since the inclusion of Si(OH)(4) in standards and samples improved the limit of detection of Al from ca 8 nmol dm(-3) to 3 nmol dm(-3).