The Hidden Dangers of Disinfectants

The Hidden Dangers of Disinfectants

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've found myself in the peculiar position of having to explain my stance on gym disinfectants to bewildered fellow gym-goers. Imagine this scene: I approach someone about to wipe down the equipment I'm eyeing next, and I say, "Actually, would you mind not using the gym's disinfectant wipes on that? I have my reasons." The usual response is a puzzled look, as if I've just suggested we clean the equipment with magic spells. This is often followed by a concerned, "Are you sure you don't want me to wipe it down?!" To which I reply, with a hint of drama, "Believe me, if you knew the toxic tales of that stuff you're about to use, you'd understand why I'd rather you didn't."

Let me take you on a journey through my reasons for dodging commercial disinfectants like a pro and why you might think twice about letting them anywhere near your personal space, too.

In the realm of modern hygiene, a silent but deadly guardian often goes unnoticed, yet its presence is abundant, from the gleaming floors of our hospitals to the sweat-slicked surfaces of gym equipment. This guardian, known as Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, or Quats for short, has spun its way into the fabric of our daily lives, championing the cause of cleanliness. But beneath its protective veil lies a storyline less told, one that interlocks with our very biology in ways that might just make you pause the next time you reach for that disinfectant wipe[1] (Are you sure!? 100%!).

What The Heck are Quats and Where Can I Find Them?

Imagine entering a gym, the air thick with determination. You grab a disinfectant wipe from anyone of the numerous cleaning stations, its purpose to cleanse the equipment of any lingering traces of the previous user. What you're holding is soaked with Quats, chemicals prized for their ability to crush the very existence of bacteria and viruses. These compounds are not just confined to gym wipes but are found in numerous other commercial products, from household cleaners to fabric softeners, all silently standing guard against microbial invaders[2].

What Happens When Quats Enter My Body?

The story takes a twist when these chemical warriors come into contact with our skin or when their invisible particles are inhaled. Unlike the external surfaces they're meant to protect, our skin and respiratory system offers these chemical killers an easy entrance into our living systems, where they (Quats) can interact with countless biological molecules in unforeseen ways. The skin, our largest organ, can easily absorb these compounds (God forbid you have a cut or open sore), while our lungs can show them the way to our bloodstream, setting the stage for a journey with uncertain destinations, none of which you’d want to go[3].

How Long Do Quats Stay in The Body and Where Do They Hide?

Once inside, Quats embark on a voyage through the body, their stay and path are influenced by our unique biochemistry. Some may find their way out relatively quickly, while others can linger indefinitely, accumulating in our tissues or interacting with cellular mechanisms in ways that science is still trying to figure out. The precise route Quats take within the human body remains a topic of ongoing research, but we are starting to learn there are numerous ways they can negatively affect our internal ecosystems[4].

What Are the Main Health Implications?

The plot thickens as we delve into the health implications associated with the toxicity of Quats. Studies have begun to shed light on potential concerns, ranging from skin and respiratory irritation to more profound questions about their impact on our body's internal processes. The concern is not just about immediate reactions but about the subtle, long-term effects that chronic exposure might have on our health[5].

How Do They Impact My Hormones?

Among the most intriguing chapters in the Quats saga is their interaction with our hormonal systems. These tiny little scurrying chemical messengers orchestrate a myriad of bodily functions, from growth and metabolism to sex and mood regulation. Preliminary research suggests that Quats may mimic or interfere with hormone activity, a phenomenon known as endocrine disruption, which could cause a multitude of problems within the body[6]. For instance, chemical endocrine disruptors, found in many commercial products, are known to increase the risk of many types of cancer by interfering with hormonal balance, leading to abnormal cell growth and tumor development[7].

Detoxifying Quats

But all is not lost. The story of Quats is also one of resilience and recovery. Emerging research points to a few allies in our quest to detoxify from these compounds, these include 100% natural substances like:

- Humic-Fulvic Acid Complexes

- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), and

- Glutathione (GSH).

These supplements are thought to support the body's natural detoxification pathways, helping to escort Quats and other unwelcome guests (like heavy metals and glyphosates) out of our system in a safe manner[8].

Healthier Ways to Disinfect?

The quest for cleanliness need not be fought with chemical warfare. Nature offers a bounty of alternatives, from the simple power of natural (chemical free) soap and water to the antimicrobial prowess of lemon, vinegar and essential oils (like thyme and oregano). These alternatives invite us to rethink our approach to disinfection, balancing efficacy with ecological, physiological and biochemical harmony[9].


In the grand scheme of life, commercial disinfectants, have emerged as the main means to attack these invisible invaders. Yet, as we peel back the layers of their story, we are reminded of the delicate balance between protection and harm. The tale of Quats is not just about the chemicals themselves but about our relationship with the world around us and the unseen impacts of our choices. As we move forward, let’s do our best to tread lightly, armed with knowledge and respect for the intricate web of life that sustains us. And let’s not forget, when we were kids, we ate dirt and lived to tell the story!




[1] Boles, C., et al. (2022). Multi-route exposure sampling of quaternary ammonium compounds and ethanol surface disinfectants in a K-8 school. Indoor Air, 32(5), e13036.

[2] Frantz, A. L. (2023). Chronic quaternary ammonium compound exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on human health. Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences, 15(3), 199–206.

[3] Dewey, H., Sultana, N., & Budhathoki-Uprety, J. (2023). Optical nanosensors for the detection of Quaternary ammonium compounds. Meeting Abstracts, MA2023-01(9), 1132–1132.

[4] Sharma, A., et al. (2022). Quaternary ammonium compounds: Usage in households during COVID-19 pandemic, boon, or bane? Asian Pacific Journal of Health Sciences, 9(4), 133–139.

[5] Hrubec, T. C., et al. (2020). Altered toxicological endpoints in humans with Quaternary ammonium compound exposure. In bioRxiv. medRxiv.

[6] Dewey, H. M., Jones, J. M., Keating, M. R., & Budhathoki-Uprety, J. (2022). Increased use of disinfectants during the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential impacts on health and safety. Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, 29(1), 27–38.

[7] Macon, M. B., & Fenton, S. E. (2013). Endocrine disruptors and the breast: early life effects and later life disease. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia, 18(1), 43–61.

[8] Cruz, J. V., et al. (2021). Environmental concerns about the massive use of disinfectants during COVID-19 pandemic: an overview on aquatic toxicity. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Contamination, 16(1), 107–117.

[9] Nielsen, G. D., et al. (2007). Do indoor chemicals promote development of airway allergy? Indoor Air, 17(3), 236–255.




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