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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2009 Oct;72(7):1811-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2009.07.003. Epub 2009 Aug 8.

Assessing the toxicity of contaminated soils using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as test organism.

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  • 1Ecossa, Giselastr. 6, 82319 Starnberg, Germany.


In this study, nine uncontaminated reference soils and 22 contaminated soils with different physico-chemical properties and contamination patterns were tested with a standardized toxicity test, using the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, as test organism. Fertility, growth and reproduction of C. elegans in the soils were compared with the exposure in standard soil Lufa St.2.2. C. elegans showed 100% fertility and a very low variability of growth in the reference soils. Although, reproduction varied considerably between the various reference soils, validity criteria (>30 offspring per test organism) were met in all reference soils. Moreover, Lufa St. 2.2 turned out to be a suitable and representative control soil. In order to clearly classify the effects of the polluted soils on C. elegans, toxicity thresholds were derived for nematode fertility (20% inhibition), growth (10% inhibition) and reproduction (40% inhibition) on the basis of the test inherent variability (MDD=minimal detectable difference), as well as their variability between the uncontaminated reference soils (MTI=maximal tolerable inhibition). The contaminated soils showed clear toxic effects on the nematodes, whereas the toxicity was better correlated to organic than to heavy metal contamination in bulk soil. Interestingly, the results of the nematode toxicity test were not well correlated with those of tests with oligochaetes, collembolans and plants, performed with the same soils, showing that the results are not redundant. The toxicity test using C. elegans turned out to be suitable for testing the toxicity of field collected soils and might by a valuable addition to soil test batteries.

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