Effects of red earthworms (Eisenia fetida) on leachability of lead minerals in soil

Armin Kavehei*, Grant C. Hose, Damian B. Gore

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Contamination of soils by metals and metalloids is an important environmental problem in many residential and industrial sites around the world. Lead is a common contaminant, which enters the soil through mining, industrial activities and waste disposal. A range of technologies can be used to remediate soil lead, however most remediation technologies adversely affect the environment and particularly soil biota. We have assessed the efficacy of vermiremediation (the use of earthworms for remediation) to reduce water extractable lead concentrations in soil. Earthworms were introduced to a sandy soil spiked with the common lead minerals cotunnite (PbCl2), cerussite (PbCO3), massicot (PbO) or galena (PbS) at 1000 mg (Pb) kg-1. Lead concentrations in pore water extracted during the experiment were not significantly different in contaminated soil with and without worms. However, concentrations of lead in water from a deionised water extraction (washing) of contaminated soil were significantly lower in soil with earthworms than in soil without. Earthworms accumulated on average (±1 standard deviation) 276 ± 118, 235 ± 66, 241 ± 58 and 40 ± 30 mg kg-1 (dry weight of earthworms) of lead in their bodies, in PbCl2, PbCO3, PbO and PbS-dosed soils, respectively. During the experiment, earthworms lost weight in all contaminated soils, except those containing PbS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)851-857
    Number of pages7
    JournalEnvironmental Pollution
    Early online date14 Nov 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


    • Aqueous extraction
    • Eisenia fetida
    • Metal
    • Vermiremediation


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