Course: Terrestrial ecotoxicity assessment of metals

The Technical University of Denmark has develop a complete course on terrestrial ecotoxicity of metals.


A participant who follows this course will be able to:

  • Identify processes governing metal fate, accessibility, bioavailability and toxicity in soils

  • Calculate comparative toxicity potentials of a metal in soil

  • Utilize this knowledge in regionalized impact assessment


A basic knowledge of environmental processes is required. A participant should be comfortable with employing mathematical models and should be comfortable working with computers.


Course outline

The course is designed in 2 blocks of 45 minutes


I. Block 1 (45 min)


1. Characterization models and modeling metal fate (20 min)

  • Major fate mechanisms for metals in soil (10 min)

  • Exercise A: calculate fate factor of Cu in 5 soils using USEtox (10 min)

  • Software requirements: Microsoft Excel and the USEtox model

  • Reading: (1)


2. Speciation models and modeling metal exposure (20 min)

  • Structure of speciation models (10 min)

  • Exercise B: calculate accessibility and bioavailability factors of Cu in 5 soils using empirical regression models (10 min)

  • Software requirements: Microsoft Excel

  • Readings: (2) and (3)


II. Block 2 (45 min)


3. Terrestrial ecotoxicity modeling (20 min)

  • Structure of terrestrial ecotoxicity models (10 min)

  • Exercise C: calculate effect factor of Cu in 5 soils using terrestrial biotic ligand models (10 min)

  • Software requirements: Microsoft Excel

  • Readings: (4) and (5)


4. Calculation of comparative toxicity potentials (20 min)

  • Introduction to case study (5 min)

  • Case study: calculate weighted CTP for Cu emitted from a power plant (15 min)

  • Software requirements: Microsoft Excel

  • Reading: (6, 7)


Download the course here:


Background Readings

(1) Rosenbaum, R. K., T. M. Bachmann, et al. (2008). "USEtox-the UNEP-SETAC toxicity model: recommended characterisation factors for human toxicity and freshwater ecotoxicity in life cycle impact assessment." International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 13(7): 532-546.

(2) Groenenberg, J. E., P. F. A. M. Römkens, et al. (2010). "Transfer functions for solid-solution partitioning of cadmium, copper, nickel, lead and zinc in soils: derivation of relationships for free metal ion activities and validation with independent data." European Journal of Soil Science 61(1): 58-73.

(3) Rodrigues, S. M., B. Henriques, et al. (2010). "Evaluation of an approach for the characterization of reactive and available pools of twenty potentially toxic elements in soils: Part I - The role of key soil properties in the variation of contaminants' reactivity." Chemosphere 81(11): 1549-1559.

(4) Thakali, S., H. E. Allen, et al. (2006). "A terrestrial biotic ligand model. 1. Development and application to Cu and Ni toxicities to barley root elongation in soils." Environmental Science & Technology 40(22): 7085-7093.

(5) Thakali, S., H. E. Allen, et al. (2006). "Terrestrial biotic ligand model. 2. Application to Ni and Cu toxicities to plants, invertebrates, and microbes in soil." Environmental Science & Technology 40(22): 7094-7100.

(6) Owsianiak M, Rosenbaum RK, Huijbregts MAJ, Hauschild MZ. 2013. "Addressing geographic variability in the comparative toxicity potential of copper and nickel in soils". Environmental Science and Technology 47(7):3241-3250.

(7) de Caritat, P., C. Reimann, et al. (1997). "Mass Balance between Emission and Deposition of Airborne Contaminants." Environmental Science & Technology 31(10): 2966-2972.