What are quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs/Quats)?
Quats are a group of chemicals used for a variety of purposes, including as preservatives, surfactants, antistatic agents and as active ingredients for disinfectants and sanitizers. Quats have been shown to be highly effective at killing bacteria, fungi and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are found in many common disinfectant products.
Why are quats added to cleaning supplies?
Quats are included in cleaning supplies to help kill germs and bacteria. Quats contain positively-charged particles that bind to the negatively-charged cells in bacteria. Once the quat attaches itself to the bacteria’s cells, it can break down the cell’s wall and destroys it.
Are quats safe?
Disinfecting products, including those with quats are highly regulated and evaluated by the EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as many international authorities such as the European Commission. For products containing quats to make it to the market, they must undergo a high level of rigorous testing in order to determine the impacts they may have on human health and the environment. Products can only be registered if data show that the intended uses (as described on the product labels) are safe when used as directed.
As with all cleaning products, quat-based disinfectant cleaners should only be used according to the directions on the label. Such products should NEVER be ingested or injected. If you are experiencing any issues due to an accidental spill on your skin, eye exposure, inhalation or ingestion, read the first aid instructions on the product label and if necessary, contact your local poison control center or 911.
What is the EPA toxicity for quats?
Despite the duration and prevalence of their use in commercial and consumer products, few studies have assessed the toxicity of single QACs. The majority of studies investigating the toxicity of single QACs are unpublished company reports which indicate weight reduction as the main effect in mice.
Are quats bad for the environment?
Quats are biodegradable and do not accumulate in the environment. Though some can be toxic to marine animals, tests also show that quats don’t accumulate in organisms either. Other environmental compounds help to break down the chemical so that it doesn’t spread through the ecosystem.
Are products containing Quats effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?
Certain quat-based disinfectants are effective against SARS-CoV-2. EPA’s “List N. Disinfectants against Coronavirus (COVID-19)” includes many Quat-based disinfectants that can be used against SARS-CoV-2. The criteria for inclusion on this list include either having been tested against SARS-CoV-2 or having demonstrated efficacy against a harder to kill virus or a human coronavirus that is similar to SARS-CoV-2.