As of writing this article, we are celebrating a little over a one–year anniversary since we heard terms like Corona Virus, COVID–19, pandemic, social distancing, and quarantine becoming part of our daily vernacular. Inescapable terms dominating the daily news cycles, work practices, friends/family interactions and our irrational stockpiling of goods. Toilet paper and disinfectants being one of the most sought–after items as coping mechanisms to guard against the new reality.
Disinfectants have become the active buzz word in the fight to regain control in our daily lives both at home and at work. As such, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a list of disinfectants for use against the Coronavirus (COVID–19) along with their “List N” interactive site tool to search their product database. A quick scan of the chemicals listed on the EPA website shows a common active ingredient known as “Quaternary Ammonium” being present in the majority of the products. Quaternary ammonium cations (Quats) represents a class of chemicals that include a positively charged nitrogen atom surrounded by organic molecules or alkyls. The most common chemicals used under this class of compounds is Benzalkonium chloride or alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride sometimes referred to as BZK, BAC or BAK2,4.
Well–known cleaning product producing companies have incorporated BAC chemicals as their main ingredient in several viral and/or bacterial disinfecting products. These products are being deployed by both professional decontamination companies and residential consumers with varying degrees of concentration. The assumptions being the commercially available products have been approved for consumer use and proven effective against most viruses and/or bacteria. History has shown that although some products may not cause harm to individuals, their advertised effectiveness may not hold true for all applications.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan and a number for other antimicrobial chemicals from being sold in consumer products advertised as disinfectants. This was after studies determine that their broad use in soaps, shampoo, and over–the–counter antiseptics did not show them to be very effective biocides. However, the current pandemic has the FDA pressing the pause button on making a final decision regarding the use of BACs1,5.
Although, the long–term effects of deploying quaternary amines on individual’s health and environmental impact are still being reviewed. ALS currently has methods in place to provide analytical services for detecting quaternary amines on surfaces. Our methods include fully quantitative results for the following Quats:
- Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride CAS 7173-51-5
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium CAS 68424-85-1
- Dimethyl dioctyl ammonium chloride CAS 5538-94-3
- Decyldimethyloctylammonium chloride CAS 32426-11-2
- Alkylbenzyldimethylammonium chloride CAS 63449-41-2
- C12–C14 Alkyl(ethylbenzyl)dimethylammo AS 85409-23-0
- C12–C18 Alkyldimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride CAS 68391-01-5
- n–Alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride CAS 68956-79-6
- n–Alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride CAS 85409-23-0
- n–Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride CAS 53516-76-0
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1 Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, “Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer Products During Public Health Emergency (COVID-19)”, Docket Number: FDA-2020-D-1106, March 2020, https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-temporary-policy-preparation-certain-alcohol-based-hand-sanitizer-products-during
2 Sabita M Ittoop, et. al.“Medical Diagnosis & Therapy- A Benzylkonium Chloride (BAK)”, Glaucoma (Second Edition), 2015, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/benzalkonium-chloride#:~:text=Benzalkonium%20chloride%20is%20a%20quaternary,topical%20multi%2Duse%20ophthalmic%20preparations
3 US Environmental Protection Agency. US EPA; Washington, DC: 2020. List N: disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
4 Beatriz Merchel Piovesan Pereira, Illias Tagkopoulos, “Benzalkonium Chlorides: Uses, Regulartory Status, and Microbial Resistance”, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2019 Jul 1; 85(13): e00377-19, Published online 2019 Jun 17, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6581159/
5 FDA, “FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of consumer hand sanitizers”, U.S. Food & DRUG, 2019 April 11, https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-final-rule-safety-and-effectiveness-consumer-hand-sanitizers