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Benzalkonium Chloride

Nasty Ingredients
Benzalkonium Chloride

Benzalkonium Chloride

Benzalkonium chloride is an antibacterial ingredient used in a wide range of products, including household cleaners, personal care products and soaps. It's a known skin irritant, and research is being undertaken to understand its potential for causing antibacterial resistance in harmful bacteria. We prefer to leave it out of our products.

Benzalkonium chloride is a synthetic chemical produced by reacting fatty acids with benzyl chloride. Commercially this ingredient is typically comprised of several compounds with varying alkyl chain lengths, ranging from C8 to C18. While effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses, benzalkonium chloride is associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies - particularly for people with conditions such as asthma and eczema.

As a common ingredient in many household and commercial products, benzalkonium chloride carries some environmental concerns, particularly as it enters waterways. Research points to evidence suggesting the continuous use of biocides (such as benzalkonium chloride) and their release to the environment may lead to antibacterial resistance in harmful bacteria. A 2018 study reported benzalkonium chloride's high toxicity for certain aquatic life, and also highlighted its potential to mix with other compounds in hospital and municipal wastewaters, contributing to adverse environmental effects.

Other names: BAC, Alkyl C12-16 Dimethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride

Chemical class: Quaternary Ammonium Compounds


REFERENCES

Merchel Piovesan Pereira, B., & Tagkopoulos, I. (2019). Benzalkonium Chlorides: Uses, Regulatory Status, and Microbial Resistance. Applied and environmental microbiology, 85(13), e00377-19. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00377-19

Elersek, T., Ženko, M., & Filipič, M. (2018). Ecotoxicity of disinfectant benzalkonium chloride and its mixture with antineoplastic drug 5-fluorouracil towards alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. PeerJ, 6, e4986. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4986

DermNet NZ. (2019) Benzalkonium chloride contact dermatitis. Retrieved on 24 November, 2021 from https://dermnetnz.org/topics/benzalkonium-chloride-contact-dermatitis

National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 70519829, Benzalkonium(C8-C16) Chloride. Retrieved November 25, 2021 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Benzalkonium_C8-C16_-Chloride

INCI Name:
Benzalkonium Chloride
Ingredient origins:
Synthetic
Role:
Antimicrobial Agent, Preservative, Surfactant
Common name:
Benzalkonium Chloride
EWG score: The EWG score is a hazard score ranging from 1-2 (low hazard), 3-6 (moderate hazard) and 7-10 (high hazard) published by the Environmental Working Group. Their data is sourced from the Skin Deep® database and studies published in open scientific literature.
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