A critical review of the environmental impacts of manufactured nano-objects on earthworm species

Muhammad Adeel, Noman Shakoor, Muhammad Shafiq, Anna Pavlicek, Florian Part, Christian Zafiu, Ali Raza, Muhammad Arslan Ahmad, Ghulam Jilani, Jason C White, Eva-Kathrin Ehmoser, Iseult Lynch, Xu Ming, Yukui Rui

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The presence of manufactured nano-objects (MNOs) in various consumer or their (future large-scale) use as nanoagrochemical have increased with the rapid development of nanotechnology and therefore, concerns associated with its possible ecotoxicological effects are also arising. MNOs are releasing along the product life cycle, consequently accumulating in soils and other environmental matrices, and potentially leading to adverse effects on soil biota and their associated processes. Earthworms, of the group of Oligochaetes, are an ecologically significant group of organisms and play an important role in soil remediation, as well as acting as a potential vector for trophic transfer of MNOs through the food chain. This review presents a comprehensive and critical overview of toxic effects of MNOs on earthworms in soil system. We reviewed pathways of MNOs in agriculture soil environment with its expected production, release, and bioaccumulation. Furthermore, we thoroughly examined scientific literature from last ten years and critically evaluated the potential ecotoxicity of 16 different metal oxide or carbon-based MNO types. Various adverse effects on the different earthworm life stages have been reported, including reduction in growth rate, changes in biochemical and molecular markers, reproduction and survival rate. Importantly, this literature review reveals the scarcity of long-term toxicological data needed to actually characterize MNOs risks, as well as an understanding of mechanisms causing toxicity to earthworm species. This review sheds light on this knowledge gap as investigating bio-nano interplay in soil environment improves our major understanding for safer applications of MNOs in the agriculture environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118041
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by National Key Research and Development Program of China , ( 2018YFA0606500 and 2017YFA0604300 ), National Key R&D Program of China , ( SQ2017YFNC060064 and 2017YFD0801300 ), NSFC-Guangdong Joint Fund ( U1401234 ), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41371471 and No. 41130526 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Earthworms
  • Fate and transport
  • Nano plastic
  • Nanomaterials
  • Trophic transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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