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Assessing the fate and effects of nano aluminum oxide in the terrestrial earthworm, Eisenia fetida



Nano-sized aluminum is currently being used by the military and commercial industries in many applications including coatings, thermites, and propellants. Due to the potential for wide dispersal in soil systems, we chose to investigate the fate and effects of nano-sized aluminum oxide (Al2O3), the oxidized form of nano aluminum, in a terrestrial organism. The toxicity and bioaccumulation potential of micron-sized (50–200 µm, nominal) and nano-sized (11 nm, nominal) Al2O3 was comparatively assessed through acute and subchronic bioassays using the terrestrial earthworm, Eisenia fetida. Subchronic (28-d) studies were performed exposing E. fetida to nano- and micron-sized Al2O3-spiked soils to assess the effects of long-term exposure. No mortality occurred in subchronic exposures, although reproduction decreased at ≥3,000 mg/kg nano-sized Al2O3 treatments, with higher aluminum body burdens observed at 100 and 300 mg/kg; no reproductive effects were observed in the micron-sized Al2O3 treatments. In addition to toxicity and bioaccumulation bioassays, an acute (48-h) behavioral bioassay was conducted utilizing a soil avoidance wheel in which E. fetida were given a choice of habitat between control, nano-, or micron-sized Al2O3 amended soils. In the soil avoidance bioassays, E. fetida exhibited avoidance behavior toward the highest concentrations of micron- and nano-sized Al2O3 (>5,000 mg/kg) relative to control soils. Results of the present study indicate that nano-sized Al2O3 may impact reproduction and behavior of E. fetida, although at high levels unlikely to be found in the environment. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1575–1580. © 2010 SETAC