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Chemosphere. 2013 Jan;90(3):895-900. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.09.034. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Searching for a more sensitive earthworm species to be used in pesticide homologation tests - a meta-analysis.

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INRA, UR251 PESSAC, F-78026 Versailles cedex, France.


Pesticide risk assessments include experiments designed to measure the effect of pesticides on earthworms using the Eisenia fetida fetida or Eisenia fetida andrei species. There is no clear consensus in the literature on the sensitivity of different earthworm species to pesticides. We performed a meta-analysis on the sensitivity of several earthworm species to pesticides to determine the most sensitive species, and to discuss their suitability for European homologation tests. A dataset including median lethal dose (LC50) values reported in 44 experimental treatments was constructed and then analyzed in order to compare the sensitivity levels of E. fetida with that of other earthworm species. Results showed that LC50 values reported for Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea caliginosa were on average significantly lower than for E. fetida. Considering the relatively high LC50 values reported for E. fetida and the absence of this species from zones where pesticides are usually applied, the relevance of using E. fetida for pesticide homologation tests is questionable and we advise risk assessors to use A. caliginosa as model species. A new protocol based on this species could be proposed for European homologation tests but its implementation will require the definition of a new standard and take time. In the meantime, the results obtained with E. fetida should be interpreted with caution taking into account the low sensitivity of this species. Our study illustrates the value of the meta-analysis approach for comparing the sensitivity of different earthworm species to pesticides. It would be useful to extend the dataset presented in this paper in order to analyze the sensitivity of other aquatic or terrestrial organism groups used for pesticide homologation or ecotoxicology tests.

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