A new study is showing that ingredients in common household products may reduce fertility. Researchers from University of California, Davis found that quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as “quats”, inhibit mitochondria and estrogenic functions in cells that were studied in vitro.
Quats are used as antimicrobial agents in many common household products, including antiseptics in toothpastes, mouthwashes, shampoos, lotions, household cleaners, lozenges, nasal sprays, etc. This study showed that the quats found in these types of products can inhibit mitochondria, which are critical for energy production in cells and are thereby essential for cell growth and reproduction. Quats can also inhibit estrogen, which is a critical hormone for reproduction.
This study correlates with a prior finding from Virginia Tech, which showed that quats caused reduced fertility in both male and female mice. Both of these studies are adding to the growing body of medical literature, which is finding that quats may not be as safe as once presumed.
The researchers from UC Davis are planning on doing animal research to further assess the toxicity that quats may cause. Until that research is done however, my advice would be to limit exposure to quats if possible. That being said, based on the number of products that contain quats, it would be extremely difficult to eliminate exposure completely. Like most things though, small doses are probably okay. The human body has a natural ability to fight off many toxins in low quantities.
In general, for fertility, it’s important to think about what we’re putting into our bodies and what we’re being exposed to. As I stated in a prior post about declining sperm counts in Western countries, we are exposed to more chemicals than we ever have been before. We may not be able to control our exposure to many toxins, but there are certain things we can do to improve our health and fertility. To optimize fertility, it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle. This includes having a healthy diet and exercise regimen, avoiding toxins such as tobacco and illicit drugs, and limiting alcohol consumption. For more information about optimizing fertility, visit our lifestyle and fertility page.