Want To Get Pregnant? Be Careful What You Clean With

You might want to reconsider what you're cleaning with. A new study has found that chemicals in certain cleaning products have led to reproductive problems in mice.

According to newswise.com, Virginia Tech researchers who were using a disinfectant when handling mice have discovered that two active ingredients in it cause declines in mouse reproduction.

Although the chemicals responsible for the declines are common in household cleaning products and disinfectants used in medical and food preparation settings, including hand sanitizers, academic scientists have never published a rigorous study, until now, on their safety or toxicity.

“If these chemicals are toxic to humans, they could also be contributing to the decline in human fertility seen in recent decades, as well as the increased need for assistive reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization,” said Dr. Terry Hrubec, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is likely that you have these chemicals in your house,” she said. “The answer to the question, ‘Are these chemicals harmful to humans?’ is that we simply don’t know.”

 However, she notes, her research team at the veterinary college did show the decline in reproductive performance of her mice.

Stumped by her initial findings, Hrubec noticed animal care staff in her laboratory wetting their hands with a disinfectant before touching the mice, newswise reports. When Hrubec tested whether the disinfectant might be causing reproductive decline, she came up with the unexpected finding.

“These chemicals have been around for 50 years,” said Hrubec, who is also an associate professor of anatomy at Blacksburg, Virginia’s Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. “They are generally considered safe, but no one has done rigorous scientific research to confirm this.”

The two active ingredients in the disinfectant — alkyl dimethyl benzalkonium chloride and didecyl dimethylammonium chloride — are typically listed by their abbreviations, ADBAC and DDAC, on ingredient lists.

They are a part of a larger class of chemicals called “quaternary ammonium compounds,” which are used for their antimicrobial and antistatic properties as well as their ability to lower surface tension between two liquids or a liquid and a solid.

They are found in commercial and householder cleaners, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, preservatives in makeup and other cosmetics, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets.

“We just tested the two active ingredients in the disinfectant, not the entire class of compounds,” Hrubec explained. “To be on the safe side, we need to do more research on these chemicals and find out how they could be affecting human health.”

 The bottom line: the research team found that the female mice took longer to get pregnant and had fewer offspring when they were around these chemicals. Forty percent of the mothers exposed to ADBAC and DDAC died in late pregnancy or during delivery.


Quaternary ammonium compounds like the ones used for the disinfectant in Hrubec’s lab were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. Although some toxicity testing took place during this period, it was conducted by chemical manufacturers and not published.





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