Exposure to common quaternary ammonium disinfectants decreases fertility in mice

Reprod Toxicol. 2014 Dec:50:163-70. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2014.07.071. Epub 2014 Aug 14.


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are antimicrobial disinfectants commonly used in commercial and household settings. Extensive use of QACs results in ubiquitous human exposure, yet reproductive toxicity has not been evaluated. Decreased reproductive performance in laboratory mice coincided with the introduction of a disinfectant containing both alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). QACs were detected in caging material over a period of several months following cessation of disinfectant use. Breeding pairs exposed for six months to a QAC disinfectant exhibited decreases in fertility and fecundity: increased time to first litter, longer pregnancy intervals, fewer pups per litter and fewer pregnancies. Significant morbidity in near term dams was also observed. In summary, exposure to a common QAC disinfectant mixture significantly impaired reproductive health in mice. This study illustrates the importance of assessing mixture toxicity of commonly used products whose components have only been evaluated individually.

Keywords: Fecundity; Fertility; Quaternary ammonium compounds; Reproductive toxicity; Toxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disinfectants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / toxicity*


  • Disinfectants
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds