synthetic musk

Synthetic musks are chemicals used in personal care product fragrances. They are rarely listed on the label, since fragrance ingredients are often not disclosed. Synthetic musks bioaccumulate in the environment and have been detected in human breast milk, body fat, blood, and umbilical cords. Studies show that these compounds can disrupt cell functioning and hormone systems.

FOUND IN: Perfumes, colognes, and scented soap, body wash, sprays, lotions, hair products, detergents, softeners

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Fragrance, musk ketone, musk xylene, galaxolide, tonalide

WHAT ARE SYNTHETIC MUSKS? Synthetic musks are used as fragrance ingredients in personal care and cleaning products. The most common types of musks used in consumer products are nitro-musks (e.g., musk ketone and musk xylene) and polycyclic musks (e.g., galaxolide and tonalide). These chemicals enter the human body through skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion of foods such as fish that are exposed to these chemicals.[1] MORE...

Global polycyclic musk production is approximately 1 million pounds per year.[2] Randomly sampling personal care products showed 80% contained at least one synthetic musk.[3,4] Frequent use of musk-containing products corresponds to greater accumulation of these chemicals in the body and the environment.[5,6,7] 

HEALTH CONCERNS: Endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, reproductive toxicity and bioaccumulation MORE...

Endocrine disruption: There is evidence that synthetic musks disrupt hormones. Musk ketone,[8,9]  galaxolide,[10,11,12]  and tonalide[13] alter estrogen activity, and both tonalide and galaxolide inhibit androgen and progesterone from binding to their receptors.[14,15] Musk ketone, musk xylene, and tonalide have also increased the growth and multiplication of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells.[16]

Organ system toxicity: Galaxolide and tonalide are toxic to brain and lung cells,[17] and evidence suggests tonalide damages liver cells.[18]

Reproductive and developmental toxicity: High levels of musk xylene and musk ketone in women’s blood may be associated with gynecological abnormalities such as ovarian failure and infertility.[19, 20] In embryonic cells, tonalide altered activity in nearly 3,000 genes, some of which are directly involved in development.[21] Galaxolide, tonalide, and musk ketone strongly inhibited larval development in plankton.[22]

Bioaccumulation:  Because synthetic musks bioaccumulate and are only partially biodegradable, they are dispersed throughout our environment. Musk chemicals contaminate water, wastewater sludge, drinking water, soil, indoor air, and living species.[23,24] These chemicals are toxic to a variety of aquatic organisms and have been found in commonly consumed seafood such as salmon and shrimp.[25,26]

Synthetic musks have been detected in household dust and barbershop air.[27]  Due to their ubiquity and potential to accumulate, synthetic musks are pervasive in peoples’ bodies. Musks are present in umbilical cord blood, placenta,[28,29] and women’s breast milk, blood, and fat tissue from around the world including the United States,[30, 31] China,[32,33] Korea,[34,35] and Germany. [36,37] Women over 50 years of age had higher levels of galaxolide and musk xylene compared to women under 50 years old.[38]

These chemicals were found in adults, college students, and toddlers, with toddlers having higher daily exposure levels than adults.[39]  

REGULATIONS: Environmental concerns motivated Japan to ban musk xylene and other nitro-musks in the 1980s.[40] In line with the global International Fragrance Association (IFRA) standards, the European Commission banned musk xylene,[41,42] while musk ketone and tonalide are restricted.[43,44] The United States does not restrict their use.

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: All, Pregnant/lactating women, breast-feeding children, hairdressers

HOW TO AVOID: Avoid personal care and cleaning products containing synthetic fragrances (body sprays, colognes, air fresheners).

References

[1] Muller S, Schmid P, Schlatter C. Occurrence of nitro and non-nitro benzenoid musk compounds in human adipose tissue. Chemosphere, vol. 33, no. 1, pp 17-28, 1996.

[2] Peck A. Analytical methods for the determination of persistent ingredients of personal care products in environmental matrices. Anal. Bional. Chem., vol. 386, oo 907-939, 2006.

[3] Lu Y, Yuan T, Wang W, Kannan K. Concentrations and assessment of exposure to siloxanes and synthetic musks in personal care products from China. Environmental Pollution, vol. 159, pp 3522-3528, 2011.

[4] Llompart M, Celeiro M, Lamas J, Sanchez-Prado L, Lores M, Garcia-Jares C. Analysis of plasticizers and synthetic musks in cosmetic and personal care products by matrix solid-phase dispersion gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, vol. 1293, pp 10-19, 2013.

[5] Hutter H-P, et al. Higher blood concentrations of synthetic musks in women above fifty years than in younger women. Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health, vol. 213, pp 124-130, 2010.

[6] Lee S, et al. Synthetic musk compounds and benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers in breast milk: occurrence, time-course variation and infant health risk. Environmental Research, vol. 140, pp 466-473, 2015.

[7] Homem V, Silva J, Ratola N, Santos L, Alves A. Long lasting perfume – a review of synthetic musks in WWTPs. Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 149, pp 168-192, 2015.

[8] Petersen K, Tollefsen K. Assessing combined toxicity of estrogen receptor agonists in a primary of culture of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) hepatocytes. Aquatic toxicology, vol. 101, pp 186-195, 2011.

[9] Gomez E, et al. Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: current issues, vol. 68, pp 239-251, 2005.

[10] Gomez E, et al. Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: current issues, vol. 68, pp 239-251, 2005.

[11] Simmons D, Marlatt V, Trudeau V, Sherry J, Metcalfe C. Interaction of Galaxolide® with the human trout estrogen receptor-α. Science of the Total Environment, vol. 408, no. 24, pp 6158-6164.

[12] Yamauchi R, Ishibashi H, Hirano M, Mori T, Kim J-W, Arizono K. Effects of synthetic polycyclic musks on estrogen receptor, vitellogenin, pregnane X receptor, and cytochrome P450 3A gene expression in the livers of male medaka (Oryias latipes). Aquatic Toxicology, vol. 90, pp 261-268, 2008.

[13] Yamauchi R, Ishibashi H, Hirano M, Mori T, Kim J-W, Arizono K. Effects of synthetic polycyclic musks on estrogen receptor, vitellogenin, pregnane X receptor, and cytochrome P450 3A gene expression in the livers of male medaka (Oryias latipes). Aquatic Toxicology, vol. 90, pp 261-268, 2008.

[14] Witorsch R, Thomas J. Personal care products and endocrine disruption: a critical review of the literature. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, vol. 40, no. S3, pp 1-30, 2010.

[15] Schreurs R, Sonneveld E, Jansen J, Seinen W, van der Burg B. Interaction of polycyclic musks and UV filters with the estrogen receptor (ER), androgen receptor (AR), and progesterone receptor (PR) in reporter gene bioassays. Toxicological Sciences, vol. 83, pp 264-272, 2005.

[16] Bitsch N, Dudas C, Körner W, Failing K, Biselli S, Rimkus G, Brunn H. 2002. Estrogenic activity of musk fragrances detected by the E-screen assay using human mcf-7 cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 43(3): 257-64

[17] Ayuk-Takem L, Amissah F, Aguilar B, Lamango N. Inhibition of polyisoprenylated methylated protein methyl esterase by synthetic musks induces cell degeneration. Environmental Toxicology, vol. 29, no. 4, pp 466-477, 2014.

[18] Schnell S, Bols N, Barata C, Porte C. Single and combined toxicity of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) on the rainbow trout liver cell line RTL-W1. Aquatic toxicology, vol. 93, no. 4, pp 244-252, 2009.

[19] Eisenhardt S, Runnebaum B, Bauer K, Gerhard I. Nitromusk compounds in women with gynecological and endocrine dysfunction. Environmental Research Section A, vol. 87, pp 123-130, 2001.

[20] Carlsson G, Om S, Andersson P, Soderstrom H, Norrgren L. The impact of musk ketone on reproduction in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Marine Environmental Research, vol. 50, no. 1-5, pp 237-241, 2000.

[21] Shi J, Li M, Jiao Z, Zhang J, Fend Y, Shao B. Microarray analysis of gene expression in mouse (strain 129) embryonic stem cells after typical synthetic musk exposure. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol, vol. 90, pp 17-21, 2013.

[22] Wollenberger L, Breitholtz M, Kusk K, Bengtsson B. Inhibition of larval development of the marine copepod Acartia tonsa by four synthetic musk substances. Science of the Total Environment, vol. 305, no. 1-3, pp 53-64, 2003.

[23] Homem V, Silva J, Ratola N, Santos L, Alves A. Long lasting perfume – a review of synthetic musks in WWTPs. Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 149, pp 168-192, 2015.

[24] Zhang X, Brar S, Yan S, Tyagi R, Surampalli R. Fate and transport of fragrance materials in principal environmental sinks. Chemosphere, vol. 93, pp 857-869, 2013.

[25] Brausch J, Rand G. A review of personal care products in the aquatic environment: environmental concentrations and toxicity. Chemosphere, vol. 82, pp 1518-1532, 2011.

[26] Trabalon L, Cano-Sancho G, Pocurull E, Nadal M, Domingo J, Borrull F. Exposure of the population of Catalonia (Spain) to musk fragrances through seafood consumption: risk assessment. Environ. Res., in press, 2015.

[27] Liu N, Shi Y, Xu L, Li W, Cai Y. Occupational exposure to synthetic musks in barbershops, compared with common exposure in the dormitories and households. Chemosphere, vol. 93, pp 1804-1810, 2013.

[28] Kang C, et al. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and synthetic musk in umbilical cord serum, maternal serum, and breast milk from Seoul, South Korea. Chemosphere, vol. 80, pp 116-122, 2010.

[29] Zhang X, Jing Y, Ma L, Zhou J, Fang X, Zhang X, Yu Y. Occurrence and transport of synthetic musks in paired maternal blood, umbilical cord, and breast milk. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, vol. 218, pp 99-106, 2015.

[30] Reiner J, Wong C, Arcano K, Kannan K. Synthetic musk fragrances in human milk from the United States. Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 41, pp 3815-3820, 2007.

[31] Kannan K, Reiner J, Yun S, Perrotta E, Tao L, Johnson-Restrepo, Rodan B. Polycyclic musk compounds in higher trophic level aquatic organisms and humans from the United States. Chemosphere, vol. 61, pp 693-700, 2005.

[32] Zhang X, Jing Y, Ma L, Zhou J, Fang X, Zhang X, Yu Y. Occurrence and transport of synthetic musks in paired maternal blood, umbilical cord, and breast milk. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, vol. 218, pp 99-106, 2015

[33] Zhou J, et al. Musks and organochlorine pesticides in breast milk from Shanghai, China: levels, temporal trends, and exposure assessment. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, vol. 84, pp 325-333, 2012.

[34] Lee S, et al. Synthetic musk compounds and benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers in breast milk: occurrence, time-course variation and infant health risk. Environmental Research, vol. 140, pp 466-473, 2015.

[35] Moon H-B, Lee D-H, Lee Y, Kannan K. Occurrence and accumulation patterns of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and synthetic musk compounds in adipose tissues of Korean females. Chemosphere, vol. 86, pp 485-490, 2012.

[36] Raab U, Albrecht M, Preiss U, Volkel W, Schwegler U, Fromme H. Organochlorine compounds, nitro musks, and perfluorinated substances in breast milk – results from Bavarian Monitoring of Breast Milk 2007/8. Chemosphere, vol. 93, pp 461-467, 2013.

[37] Liebl B, Mayer R, Ommer S, Sonnichsen C, Koletzko B. Transition of intro musks and polycyclic musks into human milk. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol., vol. 478, pp 289-305, 2000.

[38] Hutter H-P, et al. Higher blood concentrations of synthetic musks in women above fifty years than in younger women. Int. J. Hyg. Environ. Health, vol. 213, pp 124-130, 2010.

[39] Liu N, Shi Y, Xu L, Li W, Cai Y. Occupational exposure to synthetic musks in barbershops, compared with common exposure in the dormitories and households. Chemosphere, vol. 93, pp 1804-1810, 2013.

[40] Bridges B. Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns. Flavour Fragr. J., vol. 17, pp 361-371, 2002. Available online: http://www.iaquk.org.uk/ESW/Files/Fragrance-emerging-health-and-environmental-concerns-200220(inglC3A9s).pdf

[41] International Fragrance Association. EU regulation follows fragrance industry’s voluntary global ban. Press Release. 2011. Available online: www.ifraorg.org/view_document.aspx?docId=22609

[42] European Commission, 2011. Commission regulation (EU) N. 143/2011 of 17 February 2011 amending Annex XIV to regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the european parliament and of the Council on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (‘REACH’). Off. J. Eur. Union 2e6. L44.

[43] European Parliament, 2009. Regulation (EC) N. 1223/2009 of the european parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products. Off. J. Eur. Union 59e209. L 342.

[44] Commission Directive2008/42/ECof3April,2008.amendingCouncilDirective76/ 768/EEC,concerningcosmeticproducts,forthepurposeofadaptingAnnexesII and IIItheretototechnicalprogress.Off.J.Eur.Commun.L93,13–23.