Amino containing polymer of poly[styrene-co-N-(4-vinylbenzyl)-N,N-diethylamine] (PS-co-PVEA) was successfully grafted onto the surface of silica microspheres via the seed dispersion polymerization of styrene and N-(4-vinylbenzyl)-N,N-diethylamine in the presence of divinylbenzene employing the 3-(methacryloxy)propyltrimethoxysilane activated silica microspheres as the seed. The polymerization led to thin chelating polymer films (30 nm) coated silica microspheres (silica@polymer) as determined by transmission electron microscopy. The synthesized silica@polymer composites were used as sorbents for lead ions (Pb2+). The adsorption properties, such as the pH effect, the adsorption kinetic, adsorption isotherm as well as the reuse of the silica@polymer sorbent were evaluated. The results demonstrated that the optimized adsorption condition was under neutral and the silica@polymer sorbent was efficient since it showed higher adsorption amounts (8.0 mg/g) and shorter adsorption equilibrium time (8 h) than that of the PS-co-PVEA microspheres and the pristine silica microspheres. Moreover, the silica@polymer sorbent was reusable even after four cycles of adsorption. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci., 2014, 131, 39973.