In situ (mesocosm) assessment of immunotoxicity risks to small mammals inhabiting petrochemical waste sites

Chemosphere. 1999 Feb;38(5):1049-67. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(98)00349-x.


Oil refineries inadvertently deposit a variety of complex mixtures of organic hydrocarbons and heavy metals in the soil, many of which are thought to be potent immunotoxicants. Terrestrial ecosystems such as this have not been adequately investigated with respect to wild rodent populations. The primary objective of this study was to use mesocosms to assess the immunotoxicity risks to feral small mammal populations associated with soils contaminated with petroleum refinery wastes. A series of 4-week and 8-week exposure trials using laboratory raised cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) were conducted in situ on three contaminated and three reference sites on the Oklahoma Refining Company Superfund Waste Site, Cyril, Oklahoma. Cotton rats exposed to these soils showed significant alterations in selected morphological traits, in vivo humoral immune responses, complement activity, and macrophage activity. However, immune alterations were not great, suggesting that resident small mammals may be a better biomonitoring choice than using mesocosms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Hazardous Waste*
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunotoxins / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Petroleum*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sigmodontinae
  • Soil Pollutants*


  • Hazardous Waste
  • Immunotoxins
  • Petroleum
  • Soil Pollutants