chemical information


Chemical Class:


Chemical SubClass

Nitro Musks

Manufacturing/Use Status

there are no restrictions on the production/use in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 10, Anonymous Adult 20

Found in these locations:

Washington, DC; Stanford, CA; San Francisco, CA; Fallbrook, CA

Exposure routes:

Synthetic musk fragrance found in cosmetic products, perfumes, soaps.


Musk tibetene is a synthetic musk and a member of the nitromusk family, common ingredients in fragrance. Exposure to musk tibetene can occur through dermal contact, inhalation, and ingestion; dermal absorption and inhalation are especially important routes of exposure, given the number of cosmetics, perfumes, and other toiletries that contain synthetic musks (Daughton 1999).

Production of this chemical has decreased in recent years due to concerns about its toxicity and persistence in the environment, and the resulting European Union ban on use of musk tibetene in cosmetics (OSPAR 2004). Even in the U.S., musk tibetene is not a widely used nitromusk; musk xylene and musk ketone are more commonly present in consumer products.

Nitromusks tend to bioaccumulate, or build up in the bodies of people and wilflife over time (Daughton 1999). They have been found in the breast milk and adipose tissue of humans, and in rivers, lakes, and aquatic organisms (Daughton 1999). Nitromusks typically enter the environment when consumer products containing fragrance are washed down the sink, and are discharged into rivers and lakes through treated wastewater or runoff from sewage sludge. From there, these chemicals are ingested by aquatic organisms, and bioaccumulate in fish and shellfish (Daughton 1999).

Very little is known about the toxic effects of musk tibetene in humans. One recent study involving mice indicates that musk tibetene has carcinogenic effects (Apostolidis 2002). A related chemical, musk xylene, exhibited similar carcinogenic properties (Apostolidis 2002), and in an additional animal study, has been shown to inhibit a natural mechanism by which cells rid themselves of toxic chemicals (Luckenbach 2005).

Another recent study reported that women with high levels of nitromusks similar to musk tibetene in their blood were more likely to exhibit certain gynecological disorders (Eisenhardt 2001). Certain members of the nitromusk family have been found to have estrogenic effects in aquatic organisms (Chou 1999a). Further exploration of the hormone activity of musk tibetene is essential to assessment of its safety in consumer products.

Musk tibetene

Synthetic fragrance in cosmetics, perfumes, soap, other consumer products. Causes cancer in lab animals. Bioaccumulative.

Musk tibetene has been found in 4 of the 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for Musk tibetene (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence

Other health concerns for Musk tibetene (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Chronic effects, generalunknown

Results for Musk tibetene

Musk tibetene was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 4 of 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

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: 0.0776 ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 4 of 42 people in the group
ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum 0.37

Musk tibetene results

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

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Cancer - limited evidence of carcinogenicityApostolidis, S., T. Chandra, et al. (2002). "Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of two nitro-musk derivatives, musk xylene and musk tibetene in a host-mediated in vivo/in vitro assay system." Anticancer Res 22(5): 2657-62.
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.