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Sci Total Environ. 2004 Jun 29;326(1-3):85-93.

Combined effect of copper, cadmium, and lead upon Cucumis sativus growth and bioaccumulation.

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School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (BK21), Seoul National University, Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, South Korea.


Cucumis sativus (cucumber) was tested to assess an ecotoxicity in soils contaminated by the heavy metals copper (Cu), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) separately and in combinations. The toxicity endpoint was plant growth, which was measured as shoot and root lengths after 5 day exposure. Sum of toxic unit (TU) at 50% inhibition for the mixture (EC50mix) was calculated from the dose (TU-based)-response relationships by the Trimmed Spearman-Karber method. Binary metal combinations of Cu+Cd, Cu+Pb, and Cd+Pb produced all three types of interactions; concentration additive (EC50mix=1TU), synergistic (EC50mix<1TU), and antagonistic (EC50mix>1TU) responses. Ternary combination of Cu+Cd+Pb produced an antagonistic response for the growth of Cucumis sativus. Bioaccumulations of Cu, Cd, and Pb were observed in Cucumis sativus and the bioaccumulation of one metal was influenced by the presence of other metals in metal mixtures. In general, antagonistic and/or synergistic responses reflected bioaccumulation patterns in some binary combinations, but the patterns in mixtures were not always consistent with toxicity data. This study indicated that TU approach appears to be a good model to estimate the combined effect of metals in plant systems, and mixture toxicity may be closely-related to the bioaccumulation pattern within plants. Combined effects of mixtures have to be taken into account to ecological risk assessment.

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