A headspace single-drop microextraction (HS-SDME) procedure using room temperature ionic liquid and coupled to high-performance liquid chromatography capable of quantifying trace amounts of chlorobenzenes in environmental water samples is proposed. A Plackett-Burman design for screening was carried out in order to determine the significant experimental conditions affecting the HS-SDME process (namely drop volume, aqueous sample volume, stirring speed, ionic strength, extraction time and temperature), and then a central composite design was used to optimize the significant conditions. The optimum experimental conditions found from this statistical evaluation were: a 5 mu L microdrop of 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate, exposed for 37 min to the headspace of a 10 mL aqueous sample placed in a 15 mL vial, stirred at 15 80 rpm at room temperature and containing 30% (w/v) NaCl. The calculated calibration curves gave a high level of linearity for all target analytes with correlation coefficients ranging between 0.9981 and 0.9997. The repeatability of the proposed method, expressed as relative standard deviation, varied between 1.6 and 5.1% (n = 5). The limits of detection ranged between 0.102 and 0.203 mu g L-1. Matrix effects upon extraction were evaluated by analysing spiked tap and river water as well as effluent water samples originating from a municipal wastewater treatment plant. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.