National Research Council of Canada. NRC Biotechnology Research Institute
Earthworm mesocosms studies were carried out on a explosives-contaminated site at an antitank firing range. Survival of earthworms and the lysosomal neutral red retention time (NRRT), a biomarker of lysosomal membrane stability, were used in these studies to assess the effect of explosives-contaminated soils on the earthworms Lumbricus terrestris and Eisenia andrei under field conditions. Toxicity of the soils samples for E. andrei was also assessed under laboratory conditions using the earthworms reproduction test and the NRRT. Results indicate that the survival was reduced up to 40% in certain explosive-contaminated soil mesocosms following 10 days of exposure under field conditions, whereas survival was reduced up to 100% following 28 days of exposure under laboratory conditions. Reproduction parameters such as number of cocoons and number of juveniles were reduced in many of the selected contaminated soils. Compared to the reference, NRRT was significantly reduced for E. andrei exposed to explosive-contaminated soils under both field and laboratory conditions, whereas for L. terrestris NRRT was similar compared to the reference mesocosm. Analyses showed that HMX was the major polynitro-organic compound in soils. HMX was also the only explosive detected in earthworm tissues. Thus, results from both field mesocosms and laboratory studies, showed lethal and sub-lethal effects associated to soil from the contaminated area of the antitank firing range.