Terrestrial Toxicity

Little Pro on 2016-03-28

Terrestrial toxicity is defined as the study of the effects of a chemical substance to terrestrial organisms and terrestrial plants. For many agrochemicals, assessment of their terrestrial toxicity is critical for protecting our ecosystem.

Species often used in terrestrial toxicity testing include earthworms, soil micro-organisms, plants, birds and bees. The table below summarizes the main testing guidelines for terrestrial toxicity, species used and end-points that need to be recorded.

Species Guidelines Dose Descriptor
Earthworm OECD 207 Earthworm, Acute Toxicity Tests, OECD 220 Enchytraeid Reproduction Test, OECD 222 Earthworm Reproduction Test (Eisenia fetida/Eisenia andrei). LC50 (for acute), ECx, NOEC
Soil Micro-organism OECD 216 Soil Microorganisms: Nitrogen Transformation Test, OECD 217 Soil Microorganisms: Carbon Transformation Test ECx
Plants OECD 227 Terrestrial Plant Test: Vegetative Vigour Test, OECD 208 Terrestrial Plant Test: Seedling Emergence and Seedling Growth Test ECx, NOEC or LOEC
Terrestrial vertebrates OECD 223 Avian Acute Oral Toxicity Test, OECD 205 Avian Dietary Toxicity Test, OECD 206 Avian Reproduction Test NOEC or LOEC
Pollinators OECD 213 Honeybees, Acute Oral Toxicity Test, OECD 214 Honeybees, Acute Contact Toxicity Test, OECD 237 Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test, Single Exposure. LD50(24h, 48h or 72h)
Other non-target arthropods OECD 226 Predatory mite reproduction test in soil, OECD 228 Determination of Developmental Toxicity of a Test Chemical to Dipteran Dung Flies, OECD 232 Collembolan Reproduction Test in Soil. NOEC or LOEC

All testing guidelines above can be accessed here.

Regulatory Use of Terrestrial Toxicity

Under EU REACH, information on terrestrial toxicity is required for chemicals produced or imported in quantities > 100 tonnes/year if the results of the chemical safety assessment indicate a need for testing. The testing can be waived if terrestrial exposure is unlikely. Under global pesticide regulations, terrestrial toxicity data is often mandatory (especially for new active substances).

Hazard Classification Criteria for Terrestrial Toxicity

GHS has harmonized classification criteria for aquatic hazards. For non-aquatic hazards, there is no harmonized classification criteria. Environmental terrestrial hazard classification criteria for chemical substances are found in various scientific literature, international legislations and official reports.

Nanna B. Hartmann etc has summarized common classification criteria in their report Review of available criteria for non-aquatic organisms within PBT/vPvB frameworks. The picture below is a screen shot for the classification criteria for toxicity to earthworms and bees from the report.

Click here to read the full report.

Risk Assessment and Terrestrial Toxicity

LC50/LD50/NOEC/LOECs obtained via terrestrial toxicity studies will be divided by various assessment factors to calculate Predicted No Effect concentrations(PNEC) for the terrestrial environment. Please read how to calculate PNECs.


You have learned the definition of terrestrial toxicity, tested species, testing guidelines, dose descriptors, hazard classfication criteria for terrestrial toxicityand how they are used for environmental risk assessment.

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