Musks are artificial chemicals used in fragrance mixtures that are added to everyday products. Studies indicate that musk may disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system and may also disrupt a natural defense the body uses to protect itself from toxic chemicals. Some musks are also linked to cancer. Musks can accumulate in fat and build up in the body. Musks have been detected in breast milk, fat, and blood.
Exposure. Musks are often used in cosmetics and body care products that contain fragrance, like perfume and soap. Musks are also used in air fresheners, detergents, fabric softeners, cleaning products, and cigarettes. They are also used as food additives. Musks can be inhaled, ingested, and absorbed through the skin.
Health Effects. Musks can irritate the skin, or trigger allergic reactions. Some studies show that musk has been linked to cancer. Certain musks were also linked to reproductive problems in women. A recent study showed that musks can interfere with the ability of structures in cell walls to keep toxic substances from entering the cell. By disturbing a cell’s natural ability to fend off toxic chemicals, musks could allow poisons to build up within cells and cause damage.
Regulation. In the United States, all musk chemicals are unregulated. Safe exposure has not been set yet. Europe has banned the use of nitromusks in chemicals and body care products because of the growing concerns of health effects.
Prevention. Switch to fragrance-free cosmetics and body care products. Choose products that do not list "fragrance" as an ingredient. Choose fragrance-free laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and household cleaners. Avoid air fresheners that use artificial fragrances to cover up other odors.
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