chemical information
CAS RN:

00081-14-1

Chemical Class:

Musks

Chemical SubClass

Nitro Musks

Found in these people:

Jessica Assaf, Asta Haman-Dicko, Rizza Alcaria, Natalie Klapper, Linda Loi

Found in these locations:

San Rafael, CA; San Leandro, CA; Manteca, CA; San Francisco, CA

Exposure routes:

Synthetic musk fragrance found in cosmetics and personal care products, perfumes.


Summary

Musk ketone is a synthetic musk and a member of the nitromusk family. Production and use of this chemical has decreased drastically in recent years due to concerns about its toxicity and persistence in the environment, and resulting voluntary changes made by companies manufacturing personal care and consumer products (OSPAR 2004).

Musk ketone is still in use in the U.S., primarily as a fragrance in cosmetics (OSPAR 2004). Exposure to musk ketone can occur through dermal contact, inhalation, and ingestion; dermal absorption and inhalation are especially important routes of exposure, given the number of cleansing products and cosmetics that contain synthetic musks (Daughton 1999).

Nitromusks are lipophilic, or "fat-loving," and tend to bioaccumulate in people and other animals (Suter-Eichenberger 1998; Daughton 1999); musk ketone in particular is commonly found in the breast milk, adipose tissue, and blood of people (Liebl 1993, 2000; Rimkus 1994; Muller 1996; TNO 2004, 2005). It is also a common contaminant in rivers and lakes and in aquatic organisms (Daughton 1999; Fromme 1999; Peck 2004; Duedahl-Olesen 2005).

Nitromusks enter the environment when they are washed down the sink, and are discharged into rivers and lakes through treated wastewater or sewage sludge. From there, these chemicals are ingested by aquatic organisms, and bioaccumulate in fish and shellfish (Daughton 1999; Fromme 1999; Duedahl-Olesen 2005).

Though musk ketone is a widely-used nitromusk, little information is available on its toxicity in humans. When applied to the skin, musk ketone can induce a weak sensitizing effect, as well as a weak phototoxic effect (Parker 1986). High serum levels of musk ketone in women may be associated with gynecological abnormalities, including mild insufficiency of the ovaries and compromised fertility (Eisenhardt 2001). In addition, a study probing the estrogenic activity of musk ketone documented proliferation of isolated human breast cancer cells upon treatment with the chemical, providing limited evidence that musk ketone may disrupt the human endocrine (hormone) system (Bitsch 2002).

Though there is no available research on a link between musk ketone and cancer, animal studies indicate that a related nitromusk, musk xylene, may have carcinogenic properties (Maekawa 1990; Apostolidis 2002). Musk ketone and musk xylene induce different changes to cytochrome P450 enzymes in rats that are linked to cancer (Lehman-McKeeman 1999). Further studies indicate musk ketone causes toxic effects in some aquatic organisms (Chou 1999b; Breitholtz 2003; Wollenberger 2003; Carlsson 2004). An amino metabolite of musk ketone, commonly detected in aquatic organisms and ecosystems (Rimkus 1999), also demonstrates estrogenic effects (Chou 1999a).

Musk ketone has also been found to have effects on cell wall transporters in marine mussels, which can result in accumulation of toxic molecules (Luckenbach 2005). These same cell wall transporters are found in human tissue as well; further studies should be conducted to investigate any implications of these findings for human health (Luckenbach 2005).




Musk ketone

Synthetic fragrance in cosmetics, detergents, soaps. Can irritate the skin and bioaccumulate in people. Suspected hormone disruptor.

Musk ketone has been found in 5 of the 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.


Top health concerns for Musk ketone (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Endocrine systemunknown
Cancerpossible

Other health concerns for Musk ketone (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Skinunknown
Immune system (including sensitization and allergies)possible
Reproduction and fertilityunknown
Chronic effects, generalunknown

Other relevant risk considerations for Musk ketone (References)

Wildlife and environmental toxicity



Results for Musk ketone

Musk ketone was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 5 of 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

in whole blood (wet weight)

Showing results from Pollution in Minority Newborns

EWG/Commonweal results

  • found in 0 of 10 people in the group

found in 0 of 10 people

in blood serum (wet weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens, EWG Study #10, cosmetic chemicals in teens, Adult Minority Leader Report, Other Body Burden Studies

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.0353 ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 5 of 42 people in the group
0 ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum 0.105


Musk ketone results


Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Skin toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedParker RD, Buehler EV, Newmann EA. 1986. Phototoxicity, photoallergy, and contact sensitization of nitro musk perfume raw materials. Contact dermatitis 14(2): 103-109.
Skin sensitizerParker RD, Buehler EV, Newmann EA. 1986. Phototoxicity, photoallergy, and contact sensitization of nitro musk perfume raw materials. Contact dermatitis 14(2): 103-109.
Reproductive effects - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedEisenhardt S, Runnebaum B, Bauer K, Gerhard I. 2001. Nitromusk compounds in women with gynecological and endocrine dysfunction. Environ Res 87(3): 123-130.
Endocrine system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedBitsch N, Dudas C, Korner W, Failing K, Biselli S, Rimkus G, et al. 2002. Estrogenic activity of musk fragrances detected by the E-screen assay using human mcf-7 cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 43(3): 257-264.
Potential breast cancer risksBitsch N, Dudas C, Korner W, Failing K, Biselli S, Rimkus G, et al. 2002. Estrogenic activity of musk fragrances detected by the E-screen assay using human mcf-7 cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 43(3): 257-264.
Wildlife and environmental toxicityChou YJ, Dietrich DR. 1999. Interactions of nitromusk parent compounds and their amino-metabolites with the estrogen receptors of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and the South African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). Toxicology letters 111(1-2): 27-36. Breitholtz M, Wollenberger L, Dinan L. 2003. Effects of four synthetic musks on the life cycle of the harpacticoid copepod Nitocra spinipes. Aquat Toxicol 63(2): 103-118. Wollenberger L, Breitholtz M, Ole Kusk K, Bengtsson BE. 2003. Inhibition of larval development of the marine copepod Acartia tonsa by four synthetic musk substances. Sci Total Environ 305(1-3): 53-64. Carlsson G, Norrgren L. 2004. Synthetic musk toxicity to early life stages of zebrafish (Danio rerio). Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 46(1): 102-105.
Chronic effects, general - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedLuckenbach, T. and D. Epel (2005). "Nitromusk and polycyclic musk compounds as long-term inhibitors of cellular xenobiotic defense systems mediated by multidrug transporters." Environ Health Perspect 113(1): 17-24.