Common Disinfecting Agents Discovered As A Possible Link To Infertility, But Only When Combined

A Virginia Tech biologist says that in 2012, her laboratory mice began having infertility troubles. Miscarriages became common, mice fetuses died in utero and the females were dying in labor. The mice that were born often had various birth defects. A geneticist at Washington State University was seeing a similar pattern after recently moving her work from a university in Ohio.

Normally fertility-linked toxins weren’t showing up in the tests. Residues of quaternary ammonia compounds (QACs) were detected, but they are so common, the finding was initially dismissed.

You’ve seen QACs.

“Two of the most commonly used QACs, alkyl dimethyl benzalkonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethylammonium chloride (DDAC),” according to The ScientistBenzalkonium chloride is another term for ADBAC, that you probably seen. It’s found in disinfectants, throat lozenges, deodorants, cosmetics and a myriad of other common products.  It’s in hand sanitizers, eye drops, ear drops and spermicides.

QACs are generally considered safe, but until these two scientists got together, their affects on fertility hadn’t been studied. The two researchers, Dr. Terry Hrubec and Pat Hunt, and their team got to work to test their theory of why their mice were experiencing fertility problems.

Environmental Health News explained when the research duo first broke the news, because the researchers didn’t wait for their study’s publication to get the word out.

“The little-known chemicals, called quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats, are common ingredients of cleaners used by hospitals, restaurants and food processing plants. Quats also are found in some shampoos, disinfectant wipes and nasal sprays. These chemicals have been in widespread use for decades. But the new study is the first to look at the reproductive toxicity of newer quat combinations found in cleaning products, according to the researchers from Virginia Tech and Washington State University.”

The results of their study were just published in Reproductive Toxicology. They found that in laboratory mice, when both  alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). When mice are exposed to BOTH, their reproductive problems began. According to the study, the effects were dose dependent.

“This study illustrates the importance of assessing mixture toxicity of commonly used products whose components have only been evaluated individually,” the study concludes.

Synergy matters.

“It’s impossible to say what exposure at these levels means for humans,” Hunt said. “There’s been so little research on these compounds that we don’t have a good handle on how we’re even exposed.”

Pregnant women and developing fetuses might also be vulnerable to these agents when they are combined, according to experts.

“It underscores once again that exposures to certain chemicals during pregnancy can have detrimental effects,” Dr. Linda Giudice, a reproductive endocrinologist not involved in the study, explained.

“I was shocked and horrified to see just how common these chemicals are. This stuff is everywhere. We’re wiping it on our hands and desktops. It’s in my kitchen at home. It’s everywhere,” Hrubec said.


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