In Europe, and thanks to Persian heritage, natural musk scents gained from musk deer which also gave its name to the substance have been known since the Antiquity.
Since 1888, musk scents are also being produced artificially (synthetically). Apart from further natural scents as lavender, rose and vanilla, the synthetic odoriferous substances such as polycyclic musk compounds, in particular HHCB (Galaxolide) and AHTN (Tonalide) and nitro-musk compounds today belong to the most widespread and most used musk compounds. Galaxolide and Tonalide are used in extremely different products such as soap, shampoo and cosmetics, detergents and cleaning products. These substances are moderately soluble, highly soluble in fat (liposoluble), biologically persistent, they bio-accumulate in organisms and are detected in surface waters and fish. Within the Water Framework Directive, no environmental quality standards have so far been defined for either of the substances. Households are the most important source of discharge of the odoriferous substances mentioned. Due to the numerous applications in households the substances are detected in treated communal wastewater and, due to their high liposolubility, mainly in sewage sludge, a fact to be taken into account when spreading sewage sludge on land.
The discharge into the environment may in particular be reduced by measures taken at the source (e.g. extended environmental impact assessment within market authorisation, development and use of more environment friendly substitutes). Furthermore, local pollution of water bodies due to formulation plants (plants producing the substances for application) may be reduced by introducing further treatment stages.