Tamoxifen ecotoxicity and resulting risks for aquatic ecosystems

Chemosphere. 2015 Jun:128:79-84. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.01.002. Epub 2015 Feb 6.


Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat cancer, is regularly found in hydrosystems at concentrations of several hundred ng L(-1). To characterize its ecotoxicity, we implemented a battery of bioassays on organisms belonging to 3 different trophic levels: Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, Chlorella vulgaris and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for primary producers, Daphnia magna (immobilization, grazing and reproduction) for primary consumers, and Danio rerio for secondary consumers (embryotoxicity test). In view of the results obtained and the ecotoxicity values of tamoxifen available in the literature, we established a PNEC (Predictive No Effect Concentration) equal to 81 ng L(-1) for continental water. This PNEC allowed us to calculate Risk Quotients (RQ) for 4 continental hydrosystems in 4 different countries in which measures of tamoxifen had already been performed on surface waters. In two of the situations studied, RQs were higher than 1, reaching a maximum of 2.6. These results show the need to deepen the characterization of ecotoxicological risks linked to the discharge of tamoxifen in surface waters. In addition, we propose applying this approach to other drug residues detected in the environment.

Keywords: Aquatic ecosystems; Ecotoxicity; Ecotoxicological risk assessment; Tamoxifen; Trophic level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorella vulgaris / drug effects
  • Chlorophyta / drug effects
  • Daphnia / drug effects
  • Ecological Parameter Monitoring
  • Ecosystem
  • Ecotoxicology*
  • Estrogen Antagonists / toxicity*
  • Tamoxifen / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism


  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Tamoxifen