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Can Worms Decontaminate the Soil?


October 15, 2012

I’m a 12 year old girl in the 7th grade. for my Science Fair I am going to conduct a science experiment on composting with red wiggler worms. I am going to see if they will decontaminate soil that has been soaked with a contaminant. Please tell me if the following would harm the worms; used motor oil, used canola oil.


Answer by JZ: You have selected an interesting project! I’ll suggest that it might be OK to use used canola oil, but not motor oil with worms. That said, in the interest of science you might try the motor oil with a very small batch of worms and see if they survive the environment, then proceed from that result. For motor oil you might consider using fungal and/or bacterial cultures for decontamination.

Answer by PB: You might want to rethink your idea of using worms. Worms have no lungs and breathe through their skin. Oil clogs their pores and they will suffocate. We never advise putting oil cooked foods in a worm compost bin for this reason – even potato chips can be deadly to them. Therefore, trying to use them to decontaminate oil would not give her the result she is looking for as they would not survive long enough to prove or disprove her hypothesis.

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