Tiered human health risk assessment of antibacterial quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) in dishwashing detergents

Eun Chul Pack, Ho Geon Lee, Hee jin Jeong, Jungmin Lee, Dae Yong Jang, Hyung Soo Kim, Seung Ha Lee, Kyung Min Lim, Dalwoong Choi

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Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are widely used in consumer products because of their unique antibacterial properties, and dishwashing detergents are a major source of exposure through oral, inhalation, and dermal routes. The three classes of QACs, including benzalkonium chloride (BAC), n-alkyldimethylethylbenzylammonium chloride (ADEBAC), and di-n-alkyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC), in spray and non-spray types of dishwashing detergents were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. A tiered risk assessment approach was also considered. In the Tier 1 assessment, the mean and worst-case exposure were estimated to screen for rough exposure and risk levels. In the Tier 2 assessment, mean and upper-tail exposure levels were calculated based on the exposure parameters of Korean consumers using Monte Carlo simulation. QACs had a low frequency of detection of up to 20% in dishwashing detergents, and the contents of detected QACs varied depending on the individual samples. Based on the results of the Tier 1 assessment, BACs and DDACs posed potential health risks via inhalation and dermal routes. Tier 2 assessment suggested that the current level of oral and dermal exposure of Korean consumers to QACs in dishwashing detergents is unlikely to pose a health risk, even for upper-tail exposure groups. However, the present results suggest that spray-type DDACs may pose a health risk in the upper-tail inhalation exposure group, and further investigation is required to clarify this risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105306
JournalRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jan 2023

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  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Margin of safety
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds
  • Tiered risk assessment


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