Household products such as shampoo and washing powder can be toxic for humans. Quaternary ammonium or ‘quats’, a common ingredient present in household products, may decrease the sperm count in men, and ovulation in women, finds a new study.
‘Household products such as shampoo and washing powder may cause birth defects and infertility in both men and women.’
The research demonstrated a link between quats and defect in the animals’ neural tube, a hollow structure from which the spine and brain form. ‘These chemicals are regularly used in the home, hospital, public spaces, and swimming pools,’ said Terry Hrubec, associate professor of anatomy at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Virginia.
The researchers investigated the effect of two commonly used quats: Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride and Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride. They are valued for their antimicrobial properties, as well as their ability to lower surface tension.
The found that exposure to these chemicals resulted in neural tube birth defects, the same birth defect that causes spina bifida and anencephaly – a severe congenital condition – in humans. Spina bifida is when a baby’s spine and cord do not develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.
Anencephaly is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull and scalp that occurs during a baby’s development. Birth defects were seen when both males and females were exposed, as well as when only one parent was exposed, stated Hrubec.
The researchers found that mice and rats did not even need to be dosed with the chemicals to see the effect. Simply using quat-based cleaners in the same room as the mice was enough to cause birth defects. An earlier study in Hrubec’s laboratory found that these chemicals led to reproductive declines in mice.
Follow-up research found that quats were decreasing sperm counts in males and ovulation in females. The results is published in the journal Birth Defects Research.