U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Chemosphere 62 (2006) 616–625.


The objectives of this study were to provide data that can be used to predict exposure-based effects of RDX in aged soil on multiple endpoint organisms representing two trophic levels. These data can be used for defining criteria or reference values for environmental management and conducting specific risk assessment. Dose–response experiments formed the basis for the evaluation of toxic effects and transfer of contaminants from soil into two trophic levels. Long-term exposure tests were conducted to evaluate chronic, sublethal, toxicity and transfer of aged soil-based explosives, with RDX as main contaminant. In these tests, plants were exposed for 55 days in the greenhouse, biomass was determined and residues of explosives parent compounds and RDX metabolites were analyzed using HPLC techniques. Worms were exposed for 28 days (Eisenia fetida) and 42 days (Enchytraeus crypticus) in the laboratory, biomass and number were determined, and tissues were analyzed for explosives compounds. The plants tolerated concentrations up to 1540 mg RDX kg-1 soil-DW. Biomass of Lolium perenne was not significantly related to soil-RDX concentration, while biomass of Medicago sativa significantly increased. No screening benchmark for RDX in soil for plants was calculated, since concentrations up to 1540 mg kg-1 soil failed to reduce biomass by 20% as required for a LOEC. RDX, RDX-metabolite MNX, and accompanying HMX concentrations in plants were significantly related to concentrations in soil after 55 days of exposure (RDX: R2 = 0.77–0.89; MNX R2 = 0.53–0.77; HMX: R2 = 0.67–0.71). The average bioconcentration factors (BCF) were for RDX 17 in L. perenne and 37 in M. sativa, and for HMX 2 in L. perenne and 44 in M. sativa. The worms also tolerated concentrations up to 1540 mg RDX kg-1 soil-DW. Biomass of E. fetida adults decreased with soil-RDX concentration, and a LOEC of 1253 mg kg-1 soil-DW was estimated. RDX concentrations in E. fetida were significantly related to concentrations in soil after 28-day exposure (R2 = 0.88). The average BCF in E. fetida for RDX was 1. Because in response to exposure to RDX-contaminated soil the RDX concentrations in plants increased initially and decreased subsequently, while those in worms increased continuously, RDX in worm tissues may accumulate to higher concentrations than in plant tissues, regardless of the low average BCF for worms.