A fishy method of analysis
Artificial musks are causing scientists to look to new ways of detecting pollutants.
Scientists studying the environment around Lake Mead in Nevada, US, have enlisted the help of an unusual type of sensor. When analysing the levels of synthetic musk compounds in the area, Lantis Osemwengie, of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Shawn Gerstenberger of the University of Nevada used specimens of Cyprinus carpio, also know as the common carp, as a biosensor for the pollutants.
Artificial musks are used widely in consumer products such as fragrances and cosmetics. They are also added to household cleaning materials and even some pesticides. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that many types of musk (and their metabolites) are found as pollutants in the water table.
Osemwengie and Gerstenberger found that the levels of musk in water taken from the lake were much lower than in nearby streams of treated sewage effluent. Looking at how much musk was present in the carp's tissue has led them to propose that the pollutants were adsorbed on sediment which was then sinking to the bottom; carp are bottom feeders and most likely ingest musks from the algae they find in sediment.
L I Osemwengie and S L Gerstenberger, J. Environ. Monit. 2004 (DOI: 10.1039/ b400514g)