chemical information


Chemical Class:


Chemical SubClass

Polycyclic Musks

Found in these people:

Jean Salone, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Dr. Beverly Wright, Vivian Chang, Cord Blood Sample 11, Cord Blood Sample 12, Cord Blood Sample 17, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 19, Cord Blood Sample 20, Asta Haman-Dicko, Rizza Alcaria, Alex Wells, Anonymous Teen 20, Emma Spencer, Sydney Blankers, Caroline Burlingame, Donalin Cazeau, Jenny Gilbertson, Anonymous Teen 21, Anonymous Adult 2, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Teen 1, Anonymous Adult 9, Anonymous Adult 12, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 10, Anonymous Adult 15, Anonymous Adult 16, Anonymous Adult 18, Anonymous Adult 20, Anonymous Adult 21

Found in these locations:

Corpus Christi, TX; Green Bay, WI; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; San Leandro, CA; Manteca, CA; Washington, DC; Austin, TX; Winchester, MA; Belmont, CA; Langhorne, PA; Dorchester, MA; Novato, CA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Lamont, FL; Atlanta, GA; Mountain View, CA; Stanford, CA; Berkeley, CA; Alamo, CA; Fallbrook, CA; New York, NY

Exposure routes:

Synthetic musk fragrance found in cosmetic products, cleaning agents, detergents, perfumes.


Galaxolide is a polycyclic musk commonly used as a fragrance ingredient in a wide variety of personal care and consumer products, including cosmetics, cleaning agents, detergents, air fresheners, and perfumes (Daughton 1999). Exposure can occur through inhalation, dermal contact, and ingestion. Polycyclic musk production has increased in recent years due to a decrease in production of nitromusks secondary to concerns about toxicological effects (Daughton 1999).

Galaxolide is by far the most common of the polycyclic musks, and production and use of this compound has increased as production and use of nitromusks decreases. Exposure in the general population is widespread: Galaxolide has been found in human breast milk, adipose tissue, and blood (Rimkus 1996; Liebl 2000; TNO 2004, 2005; Hutter 2005).

Galaxolide has been found in lakes and lake sediments in the United States (Peck 2004, 2006), where it has been discharged by wastewater systems; from there, it can be ingested by aquatic organisms and bioaccumulate in fish (Balk 1999; Fromme 1999; Gatermann 2002; Duedahl-Olesen 2005). Measurement of the concentration of Galaxolide in different layers of sediment in U.S. lakes indicates that discharge of this chemical has increased rapidly in recent decades (Peck 2006).

Galaxolide is lipophilic, or "fat loving," building up in the bodies of people and wildlife over time (Daughton 1999). In addition, it is persistent in the environment due to a low rate of biodegradation (Balk 1999; Daughton 1999).

Very little is known about the toxic effects of Galaxolide in humans. Animal and bioassay studies suggest that Galaxolide may have hormone disrupting effects (Gomez 2005; Schreurs 2004, 2005a, b). A recent study using marine mussels found that Galaxolide exposure can cause long term inhibition of specific transporters in cell walls that are responsible for keeping toxic molecules from entering the cell (Luckenbach 2005). This effect, observed to last over 1 to 2 days after exposure, could result in an accumulation of other toxic substances within cells, and greater levels of cell damage caused by these other substances. 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).

Galaxolide has also been found to inhibit the larval development of different species of small aquatic crustaceans, called copepods, at low levels (Breitholtz 2003; Wollenberger 2003), indicating that it is highly toxic to some aquatic organisms.


Synthetic fragrance in cosmetics, cleaning agents, detergents, air fresheners, perfumes. Suspected hormone disruptor. Prevents cells from blocking entry of toxins in animal study. Bioaccumulative.

Galaxolide has been found in 32 of the 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for Galaxolide (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Endocrine systemlimited

Other health concerns for Galaxolide (References)

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

Other relevant risk considerations for Galaxolide (References)

Wildlife and environmental toxicity

Results for Galaxolide

Galaxolide was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 32 of 52 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

in blood serum (wet weight)

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

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.139 ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 26 of 42 people in the group
ng/g (wet weight) in blood serum 3.6

Galaxolide results

in whole blood (wet weight)

Showing results from Pollution in Minority Newborns

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.483 ng/g (wet weight) in whole blood
  • found in 6 of 10 people in the group
ng/g (wet weight) in whole blood 1.9

Galaxolide results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Endocrine disruptor - suspected or limited evidenceGomez, E., A. Pillon, et al. (2005). "Estrogenic activity of cosmetic components in reporter cell lines: parabens, UV screens, and musks." J Toxicol Environ Health A 68(4): 239-51.
Endocrine disruptor - suspected or limited evidenceSchreurs, R. H., E. Sonneveld, et al. (2005a). "Examination of the in vitro (anti)estrogenic, (anti)androgenic and (anti)dioxin-like activities of tetralin, indane and isochroman derivatives using receptor-specific bioassays." Toxicol Lett 156(2): 261-75.
Endocrine disruptor - suspected or limited evidenceSchreurs, R. H., E. Sonneveld, et al. (2005b). "Interaction of polycyclic musks and UV filters with the estrogen receptor (ER), androgen receptor (AR), and progesterone receptor (PR) in reporter gene bioassays." Toxicol Sci 83(2): 264-72.
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.
Wildlife and environmental toxicityBreitholtz 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.