Is there a chemical linked to brain damage in your toothpaste?
The FDA made headlines last year when it initiated the first steps in a ban on triclosan. It’s an antibacterial chemical used in many personal care products such as toothpaste, shampoos, cosmetics, and deodorants. Triclosan is linked to allergies, asthma, eczema, and immune and hormone problems. So banning it is a good idea.1
But here’s the problem… Triclosan’s replacement may be even worse for your health.
The FDA Goes From Bad to Worse
Manufacturers are instead using chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds. In the cosmetic industry, they are known as “quats.” They share some of the same antimicrobial and preservative properties as triclosan.2
Quats are now being put into everything from toothpastes to nasal sprays to skin lotions. So far, the FDA has done nothing to regulate these chemicals.
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis has found a strong link between quats and Parkinson’s disease.
Lead author and biochemist Professor Gino Cortopassi says that quats disrupt our mitochondria. This is the part of cells that take in nutrients and creates energy. When mitochondria are impaired, it can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive problems such as Parkinson’s, Professor Cortopassi said.
Quats in personal care products “raises concern because exposure to other mitochondrial-inhibiting drugs is associated with increased risk for Parkinson’s disease,” he said.3
And Parkinson’s is not the only risk. Professor Cortopassi warns that his study shows that “because exposure to quats is also interrupting the sex hormone estrogen response in cells, it could also potentially cause reproductive harm in animals or humans.”
The study recently was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Earlier research at Virginia Tech looked at the effect of quats on mice. Scientists found that quats caused lower fertility and birth defects.4
Like triclosan, studies also link quats to asthma. Cleaning workers who use products with quats have an increased incidence of asthma.5
How to Protect Yourself From Quats
The best way to avoid quats is to read labels closely on personal care products. Manufacturers often list the chemicals under these aliases:6
- Quaternary ammonium
- Benzalkonium chloride
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
- Cetalkonium chloride
- Cetrimonium chloride
- Stearalkonium chloride
- Dialkyl dimethyl ammonium methyl sulfate
Quats may also hide under the abbreviations ADBAC, BZK, BKC, or BAC.7
If you see any of these ingredients, stay away from the product. You don’t want a chemical that may trigger Parkinson’s in anything that comes in contact with your body.
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