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Environ Sci Technol ; 57(20): 7645-7665, 2023 May 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2312651


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), a large class of chemicals that includes high production volume substances, have been used for decades as antimicrobials, preservatives, and antistatic agents and for other functions in cleaning, disinfecting, personal care products, and durable consumer goods. QAC use has accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the banning of 19 antimicrobials from several personal care products by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016. Studies conducted before and after the onset of the pandemic indicate increased human exposure to QACs. Environmental releases of these chemicals have also increased. Emerging information on adverse environmental and human health impacts of QACs is motivating a reconsideration of the risks and benefits across the life cycle of their production, use, and disposal. This work presents a critical review of the literature and scientific perspective developed by a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team of authors from academia, governmental, and nonprofit organizations. The review evaluates currently available information on the ecological and human health profile of QACs and identifies multiple areas of potential concern. Adverse ecological effects include acute and chronic toxicity to susceptible aquatic organisms, with concentrations of some QACs approaching levels of concern. Suspected or known adverse health outcomes include dermal and respiratory effects, developmental and reproductive toxicity, disruption of metabolic function such as lipid homeostasis, and impairment of mitochondrial function. QACs' role in antimicrobial resistance has also been demonstrated. In the US regulatory system, how a QAC is managed depends on how it is used, for example in pesticides or personal care products. This can result in the same QACs receiving different degrees of scrutiny depending on the use and the agency regulating it. Further, the US Environmental Protection Agency's current method of grouping QACs based on structure, first proposed in 1988, is insufficient to address the wide range of QAC chemistries, potential toxicities, and exposure scenarios. Consequently, exposures to common mixtures of QACs and from multiple sources remain largely unassessed. Some restrictions on the use of QACs have been implemented in the US and elsewhere, primarily focused on personal care products. Assessing the risks posed by QACs is hampered by their vast structural diversity and a lack of quantitative data on exposure and toxicity for the majority of these compounds. This review identifies important data gaps and provides research and policy recommendations for preserving the utility of QAC chemistries while also seeking to limit adverse environmental and human health effects.

COVID-19 , Disinfectants , Humans , Quaternary Ammonium Compounds/chemistry , Pandemics , Anti-Bacterial Agents
J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol ; 32(5): 682-688, 2022 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1795822


BACKGROUND: Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), commonly used in cleaning, disinfecting, and personal care products, have recently gained worldwide attention due to the massive use of disinfectants during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite extensive use of these chemicals, no studies have focused on the analysis of QACs in human milk, a major route of exposure for infants. OBJECTIVE: Our objectives were to identify and measure QACs in breast milk and evaluate early-life exposure to this group of compounds for nursing infants. METHODS: Eighteen QACs, including 6 benzylalkyldimethyl ammonium compounds (BACs, with alkyl chain lengths of C8-C18), 6 dialkyldimethyl ammonium compounds (DDACs, C8-C18), and 6 alkyltrimethyl ammonium compounds (ATMACs, C8-C18), were measured in breast milk samples collected from U.S. mothers. Daily lactational intake was estimated based on the determined concentrations for 0-12 month old nursing infants. RESULTS: Thirteen of the 18 QACs were detected in breast milk and 7 of them were found in more than half of the samples. The total QAC concentrations (ΣQAC) ranged from 0.33 to 7.4 ng/mL (median 1.5 ng/mL). The most abundant QAC was C14-BAC with a median concentration of 0.45 ng/mL. The highest median ΣQAC estimated daily intake (EDI) was determined for <1-month old infants based on the average (using the median concentration) and high (using the 95th percentile concentration) exposure scenarios (230 and 750 ng/kg body weight/day, respectively). SIGNIFICANCE: Our findings provide the first evidence of the detection of several QACs in breast milk and identify breastfeeding as an exposure pathway to QACs for nursing infants. IMPACT STATEMENT: Our findings provide the first evidence of QAC occurrence in breast milk and identify breastfeeding as one of the exposure pathways to QACs for nursing infants.

Ammonium Compounds , COVID-19 , Disinfectants , Disinfectants/analysis , Female , Humans , Infant , Infant, Newborn , Milk, Human/chemistry , Pandemics , Quaternary Ammonium Compounds/analysis , Quaternary Ammonium Compounds/chemistry
Environ Sci Technol ; 55(21): 14689-14698, 2021 11 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1475242


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are commonly used in a variety of consumer, pharmaceutical, and medical products. In this study, bioaccumulation potentials of 18 QACs with alkyl chain lengths of C8-C18 were determined in the in vitro-in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE) model using the results of human hepatic metabolism and serum protein binding experiments. The slowest in vivo clearance rates were estimated for C12-QACs, suggesting that these compounds may preferentially build up in blood. The bioaccumulation of QACs was further confirmed by the analysis of human blood (sera) samples (n = 222). Fifteen out of the 18 targeted QACs were detected in blood with the ΣQAC concentrations reaching up to 68.6 ng/mL. The blood samples were collected during two distinct time periods: before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic (2019; n = 111) and during the pandemic (2020, n = 111). The ΣQAC concentrations were significantly higher in samples collected during the pandemic (median 6.04 ng/mL) than in those collected before (median 3.41 ng/mL). This is the first comprehensive study on the bioaccumulation and biomonitoring of the three major QAC groups and our results provide valuable information for future epidemiological, toxicological, and risk assessment studies targeting these chemicals.

COVID-19 , Disinfectants , Bioaccumulation , Humans , Pandemics , Quaternary Ammonium Compounds , SARS-CoV-2