chemical information


Chemical Class:


Chemical SubClass

Nitro Musks

Found in these people:

Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 5, Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 15

Found in these locations:

Newton, MA; Fredericksburg, VA; Washington, DC; Lamont, FL; Palo Alto, CA; Berkeley, CA

Exposure routes:

Synthetic musk fragrance found in cosmetics, perfumes, soaps.


Musk moskene is a synthetic musk and a member of the nitromusk family. Exposure to musk moskene 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).

Musk moskene is most often used in perfumes and cosmetics due to its texture, sweet smell, and solubility in oil (Hayakawa 1991). 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 moskene in cosmetics (OSPAR 2004). Even in the U.S., musk moskene is one of the least commonly used of the nitromusks; 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 wildlife over time (Daughton 1999). They have been found in the breast milk and adipose tissue of humans (Rimkus 1994; Muller 1996; Daughton 1999), and in rivers, lakes, and aquatic organisms (Daughton 1999; Duedahl-Olesen 2005). Nitromusks enter the environment when they are washed down the sink, and reach rivers and lakes through runoff from sewage sludge and discharge from wastewater treatment systems. From there, these chemicals are ingested by aquatic organisms and bioaccumulate in fish and shellfish (Daughton 1999; Duedahl-Olesen 2005).

Little information exists regarding human health risks associated with musk moskene. There have been reports of hyperpigmentation and contact dermatitis occurring after the use of cosmetics that contain musk moskene (Hayakawa 1991). Another member of the nitromusk family, musk xylene, has been shown to be carcinogenic in mice (Maekawa 1990; Apostolidis 2002).

There is concern about the role of musk fragrances as disruptors of the endocrine (hormone) system; a recent study that examined the estrogenic activity of chemicals commonly found in cosmetics showed that musk moskene had minimal estrogenic effects (Gomez 2005). Other members of the nitromusk family have been found to have estrogenic effects on human cells (Bitsch 2002) and aquatic organisms (Chou 1999a), and high serum levels of these chemicals in women may be associated with gynecological abnormalities, including mild insufficiency of the ovaries (Eisenhardt 2001).

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

Musk moskene

Synthetic fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics. Can cause skin reactions including hyperpigmentation and contact dermatitis. Bioaccumulative.

Musk moskene has been found in 6 of the 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Other health concerns for Musk moskene (References)

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

Results for Musk moskene

Musk moskene was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 6 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: 0.0384 ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 6 of 42 people in the group
ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum 0.45

Musk moskene 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
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.
Skin toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedHayakawa R, Matsunaga K, Arima Y. 1987. Depigmented contact dermatitis due to incense. Contact dermatitis 16(5): 272-274.