Calling It Quits On Quats

Could something used everywhere for years be harmful? In the case of quats (short for quaternary ammonium compounds), the answer is yes.

In August 2017, scientists at UC Davis published a report in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives, showing 1,600 compounds containing quats − used daily over more than 75 years by countless Americans in common products at home and work ­– impaired the function of mitochondria and the hormone, estrogen.

Quats are found in:
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Cleaners and Disinfectants
  • Fabric Softeners
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Antiseptics
  • Shampoos
  • Lotions
  • Healthcare Settings (disinfectant)
  • Food Handling and Storage (sanitizer and preservative)
  • Water Treatment (disinfectant)

Per biochemist Gino Cortopassi, a co-author of the study:

"Disinfectants that we are putting on and in our bodies, and using in our environment, have been shown to inhibit mitochondrial energy production and the cellular estrogen response.”

Per Terry Hrubec, associate professor at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Virginia:

“This paper adds to the growing number of studies which find that quats may not be as safe as previously believed. The fact that six out of the 10 most potent mitochondrial inhibitors were quats shows that this class of chemicals likely affects living systems. The results from this study are concerning because almost everyone is exposed to quats on a regular basis.”

“Quats” Up?

The widespread use of quats relates to the initial low cost of these compounds and their wide adaptability in diverse applications. Until recently, there were few practical alternatives.

“Quat” a Way to Go?

In recent years, TANCS® dry steam vapor devices have proven to be cost-effective options for:

  • Deep cleaning and disinfecting using hot, low-moisture steam, without leaving a chemical residue.
  • Killing most pathogens within seconds of contact time vs 3-20 minutes for quats.
  • Using “free” tap water vs quat-based chemicals costing up to several dollars per gallon when diluted from concentrate.

Quats used regularly in cleaning products have also been associated with causing asthma or other respiratory ills in professional housekeepers.

For these reasons, it may be time to call it quits on quats. The alternative, a TANCS®-equipped Ladybug® or MondoVap® system, solves the problem with a tool that adds nothing harmful to the environment, while removing everything that is.


“In Vitro Evaluation of Mitochondrial Function and Estrogen Signaling in Cell Lines Exposed to the Antiseptic Cetylpyridinium Chloride.”
Environ. Health Perspectives 2017; DOI:10.1289/EHP1404

“Asthma symptoms in women employed in domestic cleaning: a community-based study.” Thorax 2003;58:950–4.