In a series of experiments the toxicity of lead to worms in soil was determined following the draft OECD earthworm reproduction toxicity protocol except that lead was added as solid lead nitrate, carbonate and sulphide rather than as lead nitrate solution as would normally be the case. The compounds were added to the test soil to give lead concentrations of 625-12500 pg Pb g-1 of soil. Calculated toxicities of the lead decreased in the order nitrate > carbonate > sulphide, the same order as the decrease in the solubility of the metal compounds used. The 7-day LC50 (lethal concentration when 50% of the population is killed) for the nitrate was 5321 +/- 275 mug Pb g(-1) of soil and this did not change with time. The LC50 values for carbonate and sulphide could not be determined at the concentration ranges used. The only parameter sensitive enough to distinguish the toxicities of the three compounds was cocoon (egg) production. The EC50S for cocoon production (the concentration to produce a 50% reduction in cocoon production) were 993, 8604 and 10 246 mug Pb g(-1) of soil for lead nitrate, carbonate and sulphide, respectively. Standard toxicity tests need to take into account the form in which the contaminant is present in the soil to be of environmental relevance. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.