DAO 131:39-48 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03279

Ethoxyquin: a feed additive that poses a risk for aquatic life

Sophia Egloff, Constanze Pietsch*

Institute of Natural Resource Sciences (IUNR), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Grüental, PO Box 8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ethoxyquin (EQ) is an antioxidant that has, to date, been commonly used in feed production. Reports on the detrimental effects of this substance on vertebrates are growing, but effects in aquatic systems have rarely been described. Therefore, the present study was conducted using serial concentrations of EQ ranging from 0.03 to 16.5 mg l-1 to determine effects on 3 types of aquatic organisms. In zebrafish, 5 mg l-1 EQ caused mortality (25%) and a further 62.5% of the embryos showed yolk sac edema as well as deformed bodies or missing eyes. Furthermore, all the investigated EQ concentrations decreased the heart rate of the embryos. The lowest observed effect level was 0.31 mg l-1. In addition to zebrafish, the study also used water fleas Daphnia magna and green algae (Scenedesmus obliquus and Chlorella vulgaris). These treatments revealed that daphnids are also sensitive to EQ, exhibiting detrimental effects with a half-maximal effective concentration (EC50) of 2.65 mg l-1 after 48 h of exposure. The algae appeared to be at least 2 times less sensitive to EQ than fish embryos or daphnids. The results were used to calculate the risk for aquatic life resulting in a maximum tolerable level of 1 µg l-1 for fish embryos and daphnids, with a safety factor of 300. According to current knowledge, this does not exceed environmental concentrations of this substance. However, this study raises further concern about the (until recently) legal maximum tolerable EQ levels in fish feeding and the rather slow pace at which authorization to use EQ as a feed additive for diverse animals in Europe is being suspended.


KEY WORDS: Feed additive · Antioxidant · Pesticide · Toxicity · Embryo · Teratogen · Zebrafish · Danio rerio · Water flea · Daphnia · Algae · Scenedesmus · Chlorella


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Cite this article as: Egloff S, Pietsch C (2018) Ethoxyquin: a feed additive that poses a risk for aquatic life. Dis Aquat Org 131:39-48. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03279

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