A comparison of the relative toxicity of bone meal and other P sources used as remedial treatments to the earthworm Eisenia fetida

Laura Atuah, Mark E. Hodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been suggested that sources of P could be used to remediate metal-contaminated soil. The toxicity of four potential P sources, potassium hydrogen phosphate (PHP), triple superphosphate (TSP), rock phosphate (RP) and raw bone meal (RBM) to Eisenia fetid was determined. The concentration of P that is statistically likely to kill 50% of the population (LC50) for PHP, TSP and RBM was determined in OECD acute toxicity tests. 14 day LC50s expressed as bulk P concentration lay in the range 3319-4272 mg kg(-1) for PHP, 3107-3590 mg kg(-1) for TSP and 1782-2196 mg kg(-1) for RBM (ranges present the 95% confidence intervals). For PHP and TSP mortality was significantly impacted by the electrical conductivity of the treated soils. No consistent relationship existed between mortality and electrical conductivity, soil pH and available (Olsen) P across the PHP, TSP and RBM amendment types. In RP toxicity tests mortality was low and it was not possible to determine a LC50 value. Incineration of bone meal at temperatures between 200 and 300 C, pre-washing the bone meal, co-amendment with 5% green waste compost and delaying introduction of earthworms after bone meal amendments by 21 days or more led to significant reductions in the bone meal toxicity. These results are consistent with the toxicity being associated with the release and/or degradation of a soluble organic component present in raw bone meal. Bone meal can be used as an earthworm-friendly remedial amendment in metal-contaminated soils but initial additions may have a negative effect on any earthworms surviving in the contaminated soil before the organic component in the bone meal degrades in the soil. (C) 2011 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S181-S186
Number of pages6
Issue numberSupplement
Early online date5 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

© 2011 Elsevier GmbH.

Cite this