Quarternary Amonium Compounds and Why We Don‘t Use Them

Dr. Rich Easterling

Quarternary amonium compounds are synthetic derivatives of ammonium chloride an ammonium salt that occurs naturally (1). That it occurs naturally should in no way merit its inclusion in product ingredients that are considered natural. Many components occur in nature and are however not something someone would want to consume or even use topically. An example is a type of vitamin E –D–L Alpha Tocopheral which comes from petroleum and regardless of the hype and propaganda involved should be avoided. Ammonium chloride is colorless and odorless in crystal or powder form. It is used industrially in freezing mixtures, batteries, dyes, safety explosives. In medicine it is used as a urinary acidifier and diuretic. It is lethal as an intramuscular dose in rats and guinea pigs. It keeps snow from melting on ski slops.
Although it is promoted for use in a great many products and in different mediums such as soy, all quaternary amonium compounds (quats) can be toxic depending upon the dose and concentration. Concentrated solutions can irritate the skin and can cause necrosis (cell death and destruction) of the mucous membranes (2) with the exception of benzalkonium chloride. Benzalkonium chloride has produced contact dermatitis in medical personnel from exposure to instruments soaked in it (5)(6) and from its use in the treatment of ulcers, burns, and cutaneous infections (7)(8). Concentrations as low as 0.1 percent are irritating to the eye and mucous membranes. Ingestion can be fatal (3). Many of the allergenic materials can be in low concentrations and are listed near the end of the ingredient list.
Usually these substances (quats) can be found on labels. Some of these are Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea and Quaternium 15 which is a formaldehyde releaser and used commonly as a preservative (4). Quats are in a very wide variety of antiseptics, deodorants, preservatives, germicides, and surfactants that are used in cosmetics. They are used in aerosol deodorants, after shaves, anti-dandruff shampoos, anti-perspirants, cuticle softners, hair colorings, hair grooming aids, hand creams, mouthwashes, regular shampoos, and hair rinses.
Benzalkonium chloride (Zephiran Chloride) widely used as an antiseptic and preservative is a rare sensitizer (9).
Why we do not use these compounds in any product should be clear by now, even though an extremely wide variety of these caustic ammonium compounds are popular and are commonly found in water repellents, emulsifiers, fungicides, antistatic agents, corrosion inhibitors and fabric softeners. Their use in the cosmetic industry especially in hair conditioners and crème rinses came from the paper and fabric industries (10). Much in the same manner that parabens and fragrances came to us (courtesy of the petroleum industry and their ability to make a profit from waste by-products). The quaternary ammonium salts are able to give a soft feel to the hair while stabilizing the rinse‘s or conditioner‘s emulsion. Sounds good, right? Wrong— in addition to polluting the environment they are allergenic and eventually make the hair dry and brittle. Why? When we have healthy alternatives that are good for you and the environment would they be so prevalent? Cheap and easy is the simple answer, more profitability and less effort.
Since day one at Real Purity we have not and we do not condone or participate in animal testing of any kind—ever. For this reason it is disturbing to find that lab rats have been murdered with dosages of hexammonium chloride at 0.94 to 1.5 g/kg. and mice with does of 40-80 g/kg. (10). Cruel and inhumane forms of testing exist because of greed and animals treated inhumanely because humans allow it. Very sad.
These compounds should be avoided. What happens with prolonged use and a desensitizing effect? When the bottom line is profit rather than people it can mean trouble. Don‘t borrow trouble.
Take Good Care,

Dr. Rich Easterling N.D. Ph. D.
Holistic Health & Wellness-Naturopathic & Non-Invasive
Alternative Health & Healing.
These suggestions are for educational and nutritional consideration only.