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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009 Jul;57(1):116-22. doi: 10.1007/s00244-008-9232-4. Epub 2008 Sep 30.

Toxicological responses of red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) to soil exposures of copper.

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  • 1US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010-5403, USA.


Copper (Cu) has widespread military use in munitions and small arms, particularly as a protective jacket for lead projectiles. The distribution of Cu at many US military sites is substantial and sites of contamination include habitats in and around military storage facilities, manufacturing, load and packing plants, open burning/open detonation areas, and firing ranges. Some of these areas include habitat for amphibian species, which generally lack toxicity data for risk assessment purposes. In an effort to ascertain Cu concentrations in soil that are toxic to terrestrial amphibians, 100 red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) were randomly sorted by weight, assigned to either a control soil or one of four treatments amended with copper acetate in soil, and exposed for 28 days. Analytical mean soil concentrations were 18, 283, 803, 1333, and 2700 mg Cu/kg soil dry weight. Food consisted of uncontaminated flightless Drosophila melanogaster. Survival was reduced in salamanders exposed to 1333 and 2700 mg/kg by 55% and 100%, respectively. Mortality/morbidity occurred within the first 4 days of exposure. These data suggest that a Cu soil concentration of and exceeding 1333.3 +/- 120.2 mg/kg results in reduced survival, whereas hematology analyses suggest that a concentration of and exceeding 803.3 +/- 98.4 mg/kg might result in reduced total white blood cell count. No effects were observed at 283.3 +/- 36.7 mg/kg.

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