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Mutagenesis. 2007 Nov;22(6):363-70. Epub 2007 Jul 26.

Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) and dimethyldioctadecyl-ammonium bromide (DDAB), two common quaternary ammonium compounds, cause genotoxic effects in mammalian and plant cells at environmentally relevant concentrations.

Author information

1
Institute of Cancer Research, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are cationic surfactants that are widely used as disinfectants. In the present study, we tested two important representatives, namely, benzalkonium chloride (BAC) and dimethyldioctadecyl-ammonium bromide (DDAB) in four genotoxicity tests, namely, in the Salmonella/microsome assay with strains TA 98, TA 100 and TA 102, in the single-cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) assay with primary rat hepatocytes and in micronucleus (MN) assays with peripheral human lymphocytes and with root tip cells of Vicia faba. In the bacterial experiments, consistently negative results were obtained in the dose range between 0.001 and 110 microg per plate in the presence and absence of metabolic activation while significant induction of DNA migration was detected in the liver cells. With BAC, a moderate but significant effect was found with an exposure concentration of 1.0 mg/l while DDAB caused damage at lower doses (0.3 mg/l). The effects were not altered when the nuclei were treated with formamidopyridine glycosylase, indicating that they are not due to formation of oxidized purines. The MN assays with blood cells were carried out under identical conditions to the SCGE experiments and a significant increase was seen at the highest dose levels (BAC: 1.0 and 3.0 mg/l; DDAB: 1 mg/l). Both compounds also caused significant induction of MN as well as inhibition of cell division in plant cells, the lowest effective levels were 1.0 and 10 mg/l for DDAB and BAC, respectively. Our findings show that both chemicals induce moderate but significant genotoxic effects in eukaryotic cells at concentrations which are found in wastewaters and indicate that their release into the environment may cause genetic damage in exposed organisms. Furthermore, the direct contact of humans to QAC-containing detergents and pharmaceuticals that contain substantially higher concentrations than those which were required to cause effects in eukaryotic cells in the present study should be studied further in regard to potential DNA-damaging effects in man.

PMID:
17656635
DOI:
10.1093/mutage/gem027
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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