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Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2012 Jun;110(6):537-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2011.00851.x. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Airway effects of inhaled quaternary ammonium compounds in mice.

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National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) constitute a family of widely used chemical substances. The QAC benzalkonium chloride (BAC) has caused bronchoconstriction in human beings by poorly understood mechanisms and lung damage at high concentration as shown in a single rat study. This study evaluates acute airway effects in mice after inhalation of aerosols of the QACs, BAC, hexadecyl trimethyl ammonium bromide (HTA), cetyl pyridinium chloride (CPC) and dimethyl dioctadecyl ammonium bromide (DDA). The QACs gave rise to concentration-dependent decreases in the tidal volume (VT) and a concomitant increase in respiratory rate indicating pulmonary irritation. The potencies of the QAC to induce these effects were in the order: BAC > HTA = CPC > DDA. Furthermore, inhalation of BAC and CPC aerosols gave rise to pulmonary inflammation as apparent from bronchoalveolar lavage. Stimulation of nasal trigeminal nerve endings by QAC, which may serve as a warning signal, was absent.

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