Common Household Cleaners Linked to Potential Brain Health Effects, Study Finds

Household cleaners containing quaternary ammonium compounds may harm brain cells, highlighting the need for informed choices about cleaning products.

Olalekan Adigun
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Common Household Cleaners Linked to Potential Brain Health Effects, Study Finds

Common Household Cleaners Linked to Potential Brain Health Effects, Study Finds

Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats), a class of chemicals commonly used in household cleaners, have been linked to potential brain health effects, according to a new study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The findings, published by Teddy Amenabar, suggest that quats may be toxic to a type of brain cell called oligodendrocytes, which provide the fatty insulation called myelin around nerves.

The study found that exposure to quats hindered the growth of oligodendrocytes, potentially impacting the brain's capacity to transmit signals efficiently. Organophosphate flame retardants, another group of chemicals used in some household furnishings, were also found to stunt the growth of these critical brain cells. While the researchers do not have direct data linking exposure to human neurodevelopmental issues, the study highlights the specific vulnerability of oligodendrocytes to these ubiquitous chemicals.

Why this matters: The findings raise concerns about the potential health impacts of commonly used household products. As exposure to quats is widespread, with the chemicals detected in breast milk and blood samples of a majority of people tested, the study emphasizes the importance of making informed decisions about the cleaning products we use in our homes.

Quats have been a critical public health solution, but the research suggests that it's vital to be aware of the chemicals in household cleaners. "Quats are widely used in household cleaners, and exposure to them is ubiquitous, with studies finding them in breast milk and blood samples," said the lead researcher. The team recommends using alternative cleaning products with ingredients like citric acid, ethanol, and hydrogen peroxide, and avoiding spraying or wiping disinfectants around children or pregnant people.

"While the study does not establish a direct correlation between exposure and human neurodevelopmental problems, it shows that oligodendrocytes have a specific vulnerability to these chemicals," the researchers noted. They emphasize that regular soap and water can effectively kill most bacteria without the potential brain health effects associated with quats. As more research is conducted, it is essential for individuals to stay informed and make conscious choices about the cleaning products they bring into their homes.

Key Takeaways

  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) in household cleaners may harm brain cells.
  • Quats hinder growth of oligodendrocytes, which provide myelin insulation for nerves.
  • Organophosphate flame retardants also stunt growth of critical brain cells.
  • Quats are widely detected in breast milk and blood, raising exposure concerns.
  • Use alternative cleaners like citric acid, ethanol, and avoid spraying around children.