The most potent chemicals potentially causing adverse effects on fish species are estrogens in human waste. Sewage is a source of these estrogens and it is difficult to reduce. In particular, although the bioactivity of estrone is estimated to be about half of that of estradiol, multiple studies report that more than 100 ng l–1 of estrone can be detected in urban rivers, including discharges from sewage treatment works; approximately two times as high as estradiol. Few studies have been conducted to investigate the long-term effects of estrone on wildlife; therefore, we conducted fish multigeneration test using Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes). Medaka were exposed to estrone for 27 weeks across three generations in environmentally relevant concentrations, being 5.74, 11.4, 24.0, 47.1 and 91.4 ng l–1. No effects on reproduction were observed in the first generation; however, a decline in egg production and fertility was observed in the second generation exposed to 91.4 ng l–1 estrone, which is lower than some known environmental concentrations in urban environments. Furthermore, histopathological abnormalities were observed in the third generation exposed to both 47.1 and 91.4 ng l–1, suggesting that estrone possibly exerts severe effects on the third or later generations. However, appearances of testis–ova were observed in the second and third generation they were not consistent with actual effects on reproduction, notwithstanding the testis-ova is regarded as the key evidence for endocrine disruption. Accordingly, we consider that qualitative measurement of abnormalities using histopathological observations is required for appropriate evaluation of endocrine disruption. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.