BMF 101 - Quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats)


Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are a group of chemicals that share a similar molecular structure, with one of several long chain hydrocarbons and short chain substitutions such as methyl, ether, and benzyl.


Although useful in many products, especially those used in the fight against COVID-19, quats have become a cause for concern due to their impact on human and environmental health.


These substances pose potential impacts on human health including;

  • Increase in asthma triggers
  • Breathing problems, such as pulmonary cell damage and inflammation
  • Skin irritation
  • Decreased fertility

In addition to being used as disinfectants, due to their surfactant properties, quats are also applied as:

  • Phase transfer catalysts in chemical reactions
  • Hair conditioners
  • Fabric softeners

Despite their extensive use during the pandemic, many active ingredients in antimicrobial products such as surface disinfectants, are lacking in Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs), which are used to support health professionals in identifying risks associated with exposure to these chemicals.  


Chiron's latest issue of BMF 101 provides a helpful insight into the applications, concerns and regulations associated with quats and presents the available reference materials to monitor their use.


Download BMF 101 - Quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) here