Did you know that the fragrance you love in your skin lotion may endanger ocean dwellers? So says a new study from Stanford University (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2005, vol. 113, no. 1). The study found that exposure to synthetic musks, the chemical fragrance compounds in everything from shampoo to skin lotion to laundry detergent, harms the biological defense systems of California mussels. Synthetic musks, previously thought to be relatively harmless, are often identified simply as “fragrance” on product ingredient labels. Once exposed to these chemicals, the mussels lose their ability to fight off other, more harmful chemicals, as well. Even when researchers washed away the artificial-fragrance chemicals, the mussels had a decreased response to other chemicals for up to 48 hours. Synthetic fragrances are cheap and easy to make, and unfortunately treatment plants aren’t able to filter them out. Until such technology is in place, choose unscented personal care products or those containing natural fragrances, often identified as extracts or oils on product labels (for example, “natural citrus extract” or “peppermint oil”).