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Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Vol. 127, 2016, Pages: 222–229

Lethal and sub-lethal effects of five pesticides used in rice farming on the earthworm Eisenia fetida

Andreu Rico, Consuelo Sabater, María-Ángeles Castillo

IMDEA Water Institute, Science and Technology Campus of the University of Alcalá, Avenida Punto Com 2, P.O. Box 28805, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.


The toxicity of five pesticides typically used in rice farming (trichlorfon, dimethoate, carbendazim, tebuconazole and prochloraz) was evaluated on different lethal and sub-lethal endpoints of the earthworm Eisenia fetida. The evaluated endpoints included: avoidance behaviour after an exposure period of 2 days; and mortality, weight loss, enzymatic activities (cholinesterase, lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase) and histopathological effects after an exposure period of 14 days. Carbendazim was found to be highly toxic to E. fetida (LC50=2 mg/kg d.w.), significantly reducing earthworm weight and showing an avoidance response at soil concentrations that are close to those predicted in rice-fields and in surrounding ecosystems. The insecticide dimethoate showed a moderate acute toxicity (LC50=28 mg/kg d.w.), whereas the rest of tested pesticides showed low toxicity potential (LC50 values above 100 mg/kg d.w.). For these pesticides, however, weight loss was identified as a sensitive endpoint, with NOEC values approximately 2 times or lower than the calculated LC10 values. The investigated effects on the enzymatic activities of E. fetida and the observed histopathological alterations (longitudinal and circular muscle lesions, edematous tissues, endothelial degeneration and necrosis) proved to be sensitive biomarkers to monitor pesticide contamination and are proposed as alternative measures to evaluate pesticide risks on agro-ecosystems.

Keywords: Pesticides; Histological examination; Eisenia fetida; Biomarkers; Terrestrial ecotoxicology.

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